SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — This week Black River Innovation Campus announced its hire of Springfield native Trevor Barlow as its executive director. Barlow will lead the organization and program implementation, with responsibilities to include fundraising, collaborating with regional and national tech employers and providing mentorship and support for entrepreneurs to grow their companies, according to a press release on Tuesday.
In 2017, Bob Flint, president of the Springfield Regional Development Corporation, and former Vermont gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne introduced an innovative idea to spur economic revitalization in Springfield. Pointing to the town’s high-speed internet capability, Flint and Dunne sought to make Springfield a destination and community resource for tech-driven workers and entrepreneurs.
Today that vision operates as the Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC), whose mission includes educating people in computer coding and other digital skills; helping people find employment or launch start-up businesses in the digital industry; and attracting tech-driven people to reside in the Springfield community.
Springfield native returns to build entrepreneurship
Barlow, who began as executive director this week, is currently working on business entrepreneurship program, which provides mentorship and other resources to people looking to create start-up businesses in Springfield.
This program looks to create businesses while simultaneously fostering workforce development, Flint said in a phone interview yesterday.
“We will help entrepreneurs develop their business plans, costs and everything they will need to address for success,” Flint said.
Barlow said that the opportunity to benefit Springfield was a major factor in wanting this position.
“I grew up in Springfield and received my exposure to digital technology here,” Barlow said. “I have a strong alumni affinity and would love to see Springfield prosper in the tech industry.”
Barlow has spent his professional career in executive leadership positions related to software technology and development. Most notably, Barlow was the CEO of ConferenceEdge, a Colorado-based company that builds enterprise event software for the Fortune 500 and Associations markets. He received his degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Education programs already underway
The innovation campus launched its computer science initiative in February and already has partnership plans with the Springfield School District and River Valley Technical School, according to Flint.
This summer the organization will implement one of its original goals, to get more young women involved in computer coding.
“We will run coding camp for girls during the last two weeks of July” Flint said. “One week will be for junior high school students and the other for high schoolers.”
The session for ninth through eleventh grade girls runs from July 22 to July 26 and the session for sixth through eighth grade girls is from July 29 to Aug. 2, according to BRIC’s website at bricvt.org. Classes run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Riverside Middle School and are free to attend. Students will learn to design and program their own video game and learn the fundamentals of game development while working in teams to create a fully functional game.
“Live, Work and Breathe” in Springfield
Black River Innovation Campus eventually plans to build a multi-faceted classroom, residency and digital community space in the Park Street School, and Flint said yesterday that they expect to finalize that building purchase in the fall.
While it may be some time before Park Street School’s residential community space comes to fruition, Black River Innovation Campus already has a residency initiative in effect.
“One of our pillars is remote worker recruitment, which also goes by the term distributive work space,” Flint said.
Today’s digital technologies allows many employees to work from home or in regions outside their company’s home base, Flint said. Springfield’s 10-gigabyte internet speed is among the fastest nationwide and makes it an attractive and viable destination for remote workers and start-up entrepreneurs.
Flint said that Springfield benefits from its proximity to V-Tel communications, as do other communities surrounding the communications company. Additionally Springfield has always been ahead of the curb in respects to digital infrastructure, investing in DSL technology at a time when most of the region still used modems.