Brad Smith Epic Railyard

Microsoft President Brad Smith takes questions from the media after his talk Monday at Epic Railyard Event Center.

Microsoft will invest an additional $1.5 million into the border region to continue expanding opportunities for job creation in the tech sector.

Brad Smith, president of the tech giant, was in El Paso Monday for a summit with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral Jurado and Alejandra De La Vega Foster, Chihuahua secretary of innovation and economic development.

“You all will be quick to point out to us that if we had done more of our homework in advance, we would have realized on day one what it took us a few months to conclude, which is that you really can’t be part of the El Paso community unless you’re part of the Juárez community as well,” Smith said, to applause.

Included in the Monday event was an announcement that Microsoft would invest $1.5 million into the Technology Hub, a supply-chain business accelerator in Juárez. Microsoft will also expand its TechSpark program to El Paso’s sister city.

Ricardo Mora, founder and CEO of Technology Hub, said Microsoft’s investment would allow the Hub to take on more businesses in its Bridge Accelerator program.

The Bridge Accelerator is a 12-week program where supply-chain businesses get training on everything from IT to data analytics. With the investment, Mora said the Hub plans to expand the program to 75 companies in six cohorts over the next three years. He expects those businesses to get at least $7.5 million in purchase orders and create 200 jobs.

“At the end of the day technology is here to help us, but it’s dependent on people,” Mora said.

Monday’s event was held at the Epic Railyard Event Center and was attended by public and private sector leaders, including Mayor Dee Margo, Woody Hunt and UTEP President Heather Wilson.

UTEP now has more than 1,000 students majoring in computer science, a significant increase over the last five years, Wilson said.

“One of the reasons Microsoft is growing here is because of their relationship with UTEP and the ability to develop talent,” Wilson said. “We want to grow (computer science) more, in partnership with the schools and EPCC, so we become a source of human talent in the 21st century. And Microsoft is very supportive of that role.”

Speakers at Monday’s event emphasized the uniqueness of the borderland and the way the El Paso and Juárez economies and cultures support each other.

“This is a region that cannot be understood one side without the other,” De La Vega Foster said. “I always say El Paso’s best asset is Juárez, and Juárez’s best asset is El Paso. That’s how we choose to promote ourselves.”

Epic Railyard is sandwiched between Texas Avenue and the railroad tracks that run parallel to Interstate 10, an unassuming place to host two governors and the president of one of the world’s largest companies.

But inside the brick facade was a large ballroom complete with chandeliers and plenty of wood. The spot is popular for weddings and other large-scale parties, and Abbott used it as an example of how older venues and ideas still have a place in a new economy of tech jobs.

“There’s an era of transformation in which a facility like this still has tremendous usefulness, providing a different function,” Abbott said. “That’s part of the way life works and what happens in the workforce in Texas.”

 


Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at sesanchez@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.

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