BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Bitwise Industries, the Fresno tech hub, is at least three months away from opening its second campus — this one in downtown Bakersfield, across 18th Street from the Padre Hotel — but perhaps its most ambitious undertaking starts now.
Bitwise says it has raised $50 million in financing to create learning and entrepreneurial opportunities directed primarily at people from underserved communities and underrepresented demographic groups.
The headline here — 500 new jobs, about 60 or 70 of them in Kern County.
With funding in place from Kapor Capital, and participation from JPMorgan Chase, Motley Fool Ventures, and Promedica, the company plans to create employment opportunities designed to address what it describes as a widening wealth gap, institutional discrimination, and barriers to high-wage, high-growth jobs in multiple markets across the country, starting in Fresno, Bakersfield and its third campus in Merced. It’s a paid apprenticeship program Bitwise is calling its Digital New Deal.
Amy Thelen, Bitwise’s Bakersfield-based vice president, said it’s a major step for the eight year old company in its effort to help what she calls underestimated, underdog cities like Bakersfield.
“We will use some of this money to get people skilled up (who are in) the bottom third of the economy and lift them out of that systemic poverty that they may have been living in,” she said. “And what we’re gonna do is skill them, re-skill them, whatever we need to do to get them to work. (Bitwise plans) to also work in kind of a public-private partnership of sorts with government.”
Bitwise — a software developer, digital-skills academy and workspace sharing company — has already trained 4,000 to 5,000 people in programming and related skills — of whom 50 percent are female, 50 percent are minority, and 20 percent are first-generation immigrant.
On Tuesday Thelen told the Kern County Board of Supervisors about a joint project with Kern County and the city of Bakersfield to create an innovation lab — supported by $450,000 annually for three years from Employers Training Resource, part of a technology business incubator.
And Bitwise is expanding in other ways as well. On Wednesday the company announced it’s adding a fourth California city — Oakland — and establishing its first campus outside the state, in Toledo, Ohio.