In 2021, 11.6 percent of people lived below the poverty line in the United States. In Palestine, Texas, the home of PCDworks, a staggering 18.8 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, which is, simply put, too many.

East Texas, particularly Anderson County, has long faced economic challenges. Historically, the region has relied on three industries: oil and gas, timber, and agriculture. As these industries declined, unemployment and underemployment rose.

PCDworks is a part of this community. We live and work here, and we know firsthand how much potential the region holds as an innovation hub. The region has been underutilized, and we aim to help change that, through the East Texas Technology and Innovation Coalition (ETTIC).

What Is ETTIC?

ETTIC’s mission is simple: to be a catalyst for regional economic development and technological innovation. 

The coalition is composed of East Texas’s finest innovators from business, local government, and higher education. Our members include engineers and scientists, teachers and mentors, CEOs and leaders. 

Currently, ETTIC is led by two areas businesses, PCDworks and the advanced manufacturing company Essentium, which specializes in 3D printing. 

Higher education partners include: 

  • University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler)
  • Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), out of the University of Texas at San Antonio.
  • Trinity Valley Community College
  • Tyler Independent School District 

Government partners include: 

  • Anderson County judge and commissioner 
  • East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) 
  • Palestine Economic Development Corporation
  • Tyler Economic Development Council
  • Palestine Municipal Airport

Our Goals

ETTIC’s mission breaks down into two major goals: 

  1. Advanced manufacturing business development
  2. Workforce development

These two goals are interconnected, building on one another. Advanced manufacturing business development leads to more and better jobs, which helps to attract and retain talent, which leads to a larger, more skilled workforce, which attracts more advanced manufacturing businesses, and on and on. The end result is economic development and technological innovation.

Advanced Manufacturing Business Development

While East Texas has not historically been a hub for innovation, it has many qualities that make it attractive to advanced manufacturing businesses:

  • Natural resources (timber and water bodies)
  • Vacant industrial spaces suitable for redevelopment
  • A pool of untapped semi-skilled labor (including graduates from the UT Tyler engineering school)
  • Connectivity to main interstate highways
  • Business-friendly state laws
  • Low cost of living

ETTIC seeks to leverage these assets and fill in resource gaps to achieve four sub-goals of business development:

  1. Retain and support existing businesses.
  2. Support start-ups and help them grow.
  3. Attract new businesses.
  4. Create tools and infrastructure (like improvements to the Palestine Municipal Airport) to support economic development.

Of these, the one PCDworks will be most involved in is #3. In 2022, we started our HardTech Basecamp nonprofit, a new kind of start-up incubator. The vast majority of incubators focus on software and app development, or the business side of a start-up. There are far too few resources for people who want to develop an actual physical product, with a focus on engineering and development. Our HardTech Basecamp offers a place for these people to be mentored and bring their ideas to life. We’re currently interviewing candidates and hope to announce our next participants soon. 

Workforce Development 

Of course, for businesses to thrive, they need talent, which leads to two sub-goals of workforce development:

  1. Attract and retain talent. 
  2. Reskill the workforce with advanced manufacturing, technology-based training.

The first goal is largely achieved through business development. High-paying jobs naturally attract and retain talent.

Reskilling the workforce is key to ETTIC’s mission. Our goal is not to become another Silicon Valley, where the average person is pushed out and cannot afford to live. We want to bring the community with us, increasing the quality, access, and variety of STEM education. After all, a rising tide should lift all boats.

Our partner CyManII will play a big role in this goal. They recently received congressional funding to help bring manufacturing back to the United States. They provide on-demand cybersecurity training, including bringing live instruction to underserved and underrepresented populations, like people in remote locations, veterans, and women.

How You Can Get Involved

We’re still in the early stages of establishing ETTIC, so now is the perfect time to get involved. From business to government to higher education, we welcome everyone interested in innovation.

In the coming months, we will be pulling together a small working group to organize and lead the coalition. Our first priorities are developing a website and starting fundraising. We have big goals, and big goals require money—and time. To really become a driver of economic development, the coalition will need funding for a dedicated staff, including a program director and supporting personnel.

We’re excited to get started on our mission of supporting start-ups and businesses, employing locals, and boosting the economy. If you’re interested in joining and giving back to our East Texas community, reach out to us at apyle@pcdworks.com.

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