Inc. Magazine x Amarillo

Amarillo Embraces Technology and It's Paying off for Business

West Texas is making strides toward a tech-driven economic future.

Technology looms large among the many factors enticing new businesses to launch and existing businesses to relocate or expand in the Amarillo area. "Technology in the West Texas region is growing," says Kimberly Gramm, senior managing director of the Innovation Hub at Research Park. "In addition to the robust technology environment at Texas Tech University System (TTUS), located in Lubbock, Texas, the businesses in the area have also embraced technology for their many needs."

No one knows that better than Steven Brown, managing member of ROI Online, an internet marketing firm he started five years ago with a couple of laptops and a single employee. An Amarillo native, Brown has had a long career in sales and business development, which kept him away from the area for many years. "Coming back made me realize how great Amarillo is, and the technology here is an amazing resource that is often overlooked." 

ROI Online leverages technology to provide inbound marketing plans that deliver measurable return on investment for its clients. The growing firm, now with a staff of 10, also helps its clients recognize the many other advantages technology can provide, and it offers guidance in creating a corporate culture conducive to embracing a tech-enabled future.

"Cloud computing is driving a huge transformation in all types of businesses, and it's made entrepreneurship more accessible than ever before," says Brown, an alumnus of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. "It's just so much cheaper and easier to start a business today, thanks to the utility model for technology that the cloud enables. A few laptops, the right apps, and the kind of reliable internet access and bandwidth availability that we have here in Amarillo is all it takes."

Tech solutions for all types of businesses

Of course, larger organizations often have more demanding technology requirements than startups do. And West Texas has no trouble meeting those needs. Texas Tech University (TTU), located in Lubbock, Texas, for example, has a very robust technology infrastructure, with separate bandwidth dedicated to research activities and wireless coverage in all academic areas and student residence halls on a very large campus, says Sam Segran, the university's chief information officer.

While large enterprises have plenty of access to the kind of high-bandwidth infrastructure they require, there is also a wide selection of technology services available to meet the needs of any size business. "Large, established ISPs provide many levels of connectivity options for both home and business use," Segran notes. "And there are many technology companies providing numerous technical services, as well."

No one is likely to mistake West Texas for Silicon Valley or Boston's Route 128 technology corridor--at least, not yet. But with the kind of collaboration taking place among the region's businesses, community organizations, and institutions of higher learning, Amarillo's technological sophistication is on the rise.

"In addition to the robust technology environment at TTU, businesses in the area also have embraced technology for their many needs," Gramm reports. For instance, agricultural businesses are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor water consumption, crop growth rates, and automated livestock feeding schedules. And GPS-enabled farm equipment is helping agricultural businesses better track and direct planting and harvesting activities. Technology is also a big element in health and education in the West Texas region.

Promoting innovation

The Innovation Hub is playing a central role in technology's growth in the region. Opened in late fall of 2015, the 40,000-square-foot, $29 million facility promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, and partnerships between Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and the region's business communities to further research in myriad areas.

"The Hub assists in the formation of technology startup companies critically relevant to today's local and regional economy," Gramm says, noting that startups create more than 80 percent of net new jobs, new industries, and new solutions.

A recently launched program, the TTU Accelerator, provides seed money, collaborative workspace in the Hub's BaseCamp, and access to a dedicated team of Innovate Texas Tech (iTTU) Mentors to startups selected through a competitive application process. "Through the one-year program, teams of students, faculty, and entrepreneurs work alongside inventors and mentors to launch new ventures based on new technologies," Gramm says.

The West Texas business community is enthusiastic about embracing new technology, and the academic community is committed to educating the workforce a tech-driven economy will require. And that bodes well for the region's future. As Gramm points out, "This area should be an enticing target for technology companies."

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