A quick scan of the Colorado Convention Center calendar will tell you how central technology is to our state. From the National Science Teacher’s science and math conference to the national Computer Society or the Applied Superconductivity Conference, downtown Denver will host numerous technology experts from around the world this year. The meetings will also give our local techies the opportunity to network and hone skills. Colorado’s next move in the technology industry is to continue to grow our own tech companies and tech workers to contribute to the state economy.
To demonstrate the importance of technology to the state, the Colorado Technology Association (CTA) in collaboration with the Colorado Governor’s Office is presenting Colorado’s inaugural Tech Week during the first week of August. From August 1-5, Colorado technology companies and personalities will be highlighted. In a June press release, CTA CEO Andrea Young stated, “Tech Week recognizes the significant level of contribution technology is playing in Colorado’s economy, and that is not slowing down. We are pleased to lead the efforts in sharing the stories of how tech impacts not only our lives, but also our communities and Colorado as a growing tech hub.” Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper added, “We know technology underpins much of Colorado’s economic progress today, and will increasingly do so in the future. Tech Week is a catalyst for showcasing the real impact of technology in our lives, and in helping make Colorado one of the nation’s premier technology-inspired hubs.”
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics backs up Hickenlooper’s claims. Their 2014 survey of U.S. states with the most technology workers ranks Colorado as thirteenth, while our concentration of tech workers is third with over 9 percent of our working population, trailing only Massachusetts and Virginia. CTA cites CompTIA’s 2016 Cyberstates report that shows 11.5 percent of Colorado’s economy is attributable to the technology industry. CTA also shows that “the nine county metro region ranks tenth out of the 50 largest metro areas in software employment concentration.”
Latino Firms Successful in High-Tech
The statewide technology celebration should uncover some of the Latino firms involved in the high tech sector. Colorado’s history is speckled with stories of Latinos pursuing careers in the high-tech industry, many reaching pinnacles within the sector. From 1995-2000, Wyoming native Sol Trujillo served as President, Chairman and CEO of US West Communications, at the time, one of the state’s largest technology firms providing telephone service.
Longtime Denver entrepreneur, Ron Montoya, started PlastiComm Industries in the 1970s as a telecommunications company serving U.S. West, Graybar, Sysco and other technology firms. During its successful operation, Montoya was President and Chief Executive Officer. Before the company’s sale in 2009, the company was listed at 19th on the Inc. Magazine Inner City 100 list. For his success in business, Montoya was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 2013.
According to Montoya, there aren’t more Latinos in the high tech sector because minimal opportunities have been afforded. “Most of our employees came with little high-tech experience. By hiring some very experienced folks to serve alongside them, most of our employees learned on the job. Probably 35-40 of our former employees went on to other high-tech work around the area. Sol Trujillo gave my company an opportunity and my company gave opportunities to many Latino workers. It was a learning experience for all of us.”
Annette Quintana, Chairman of the high tech firm Istonish, attributes the lack of tech workers of color and Latinos specifically based on a disconnect between what is taught at Colorado universities and the skills necessary for high tech work. Still, she is optimistic about opportunities, “There is a much bigger demand for tech jobs than the supply of tech workers coming out of Colorado colleges. Not nearly enough students are graduating with computer science related degrees. Our state has imported a lot of labor because it is an attractive place to live and an easy place for people to migrate in with solid tech skills. But it matters that we have Latinos, women and people of color to participate in this sector. There are not enough of those students in programming, software and related areas. There are clearly opportunities for minorities and women to economically do better if they can participate more directly in the technology sector.”
Quintana’s firm provides Information Technology support for companies across the state and she believes the importance of the technology sector to our state is understated. “The tech sector is hugely important to our economy in Colorado. It is not always obvious how technology is being used in companies. A lot of economic data focuses on the software industry or on those companies that manufacture IT goods. The fact is, computer technology is a horizontal function that cuts across other industries – healthcare, aerospace… If you look across these sectors, technology is even more important. Kaiser Permanente has their most important tech organization in our state with the second biggest in California. Charles Schwab has much of their technology centered here as well. The impact is much bigger than economic data would suggest.”
With all the emphasis on the metro area, Quintana suggests additional energy should be placed on the increasing needs of rural areas. “If you think there is a high tech labor shortage in the metro area, it is nothing like what you run into in the rural areas of our state.”
Quintana’s final words of wisdom for creating a larger and more capable high tech work force, “The beautiful part of the tech sector is that is can evolve very quickly, it almost matters more that people create the capacity to learn. They have to view their participation in this sector as a continued investment in the sector that you want to continue to grow and develop in.”
Colorado Technology Association
The Colorado Technology Association is a statewide non-profit, founded in 1994, dedicated to improving our state’s prospects in the technology industries. To promote economic development, CTA works to “Connect companies in meaningful ways and partner with economic development and international trade organizations to retain, grow and recruit companies. Through advocacy, the organization, “is a resource to the industry, our elected officials, and technology leaders to help determine the right laws and policies that will best represent the community and the future of this great state.” 
CTA’s efforts during Colorado Tech Week include a statewide technology tour. “Our vision to drive Colorado’s economy through technology is inclusive,” said Andrea Young, CEO of CTA. “Tech Tour provides the opportunity to gain insights and exposure to exciting innovation and entrepreneurship happening across the state. We look forward to uncovering these gems throughout Colorado Tech Week.”
For more information about Colorado Tech Week or to share events created to highlight Colorado’s technology industry, please see: www.coloradotechnology.org. Technology companies and workers are encouraged to engage with conversations around Colorado Tech Week with Twitter hash tag: #cotechweek.