Gov Kim Reynolds and Lt Gov Adam Gregg, Congressman David Young, Sen Chuck Grassley, Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham, and more than 30 Jefferson leaders, community volunteers and elected officials were among those gathered Wednesday at The Forge, the Des Moines “office” of Pillar Technology, to celebrate the launch of Pillar’s first rural forge, opening in Jefferson some time in 2019.
Pillar Technology founder Linc Kroeger in his opening comments thanked Chris Deal for his role in taking the company to Jefferson. “Chris was doing engineering on this building (on Locust St across from the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden) and I said I was looking at rural communities for the next one. He said, ‘why not Jefferson?’,” Kroeger said.
He also mentioned Greene County High School junior Linsey Kitt, whom he had met on a trip to Jefferson. She, her parents Louis and Karen, and her older sister Hannah (J-S class of 2009) were at the celebration. “The dreams for the future of the kids in Jefferson are very important,” he said.
Kroeger introduced David Young, Representative from the Third Congressional District, which includes Des Moines. Young commented that people need to remember not to depend on the government to find business innovations that work. “It’s the entrepreneurs who are making things happen. It’s the people who are risking their capital, their personal lives, putting all their emotions into making these things happen,” Young said.
Grassley thanked Kroeger and Pillar CEO Bob Myers for taking a risk in their business. He said the 1980s Farm Crisis proved the need to diversify the Iowa economy, and that high tech is an important part of it. “You see that represented here. The people involved here are not just thinking in terms of Polk County, but thinking in terms of doing this to help agriculture, to help jobs in rural America as well. That’s what we’re here to glorify today,” Grassley said. “A lot of times people in small cities think they’re totally forgotten. This proves that at least for this company, those small towns are not forgotten.”
Gov Reynolds mentioned the role of companies like Pillar Technology in her Future Ready Iowa initiative, and the role the company is playing in strengthening rural Iowa by placing a forge in a rural location. “To think about what is happening with this partnership, with Jefferson [sic] High School and economic development and The Forge and the community college, opportunities and the vibrancy that brings to Jefferson is so exciting to me and it really caps off what we’ve been working on and talking about. It brings all those initiatives to one great spot,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds thanked Pillar CEO Bob Myers for bringing the company to Des Moines, and for investing in Iowa.
Myers spoke last. He said it was Kroeger’s idea to open a forge in Iowa; he was an Iowan and he wanted to return to Iowa to create jobs. “We started the forges with the idea that we want to bring jobs back to the Midwest, and it wasn’t limited to the big cities. It was anybody that’s willing to learn and grow, and we’ll teach them. So, Jefferson, let’s make it happen,” Myers said. “Ideas are easy. Reality is hard.”
Pillar Technology is a coding and software engineering consulting company formed in 1996. It has forges (offices) in Columbus, OH, Ann Arbor, MI, Palo Alto, CA, and Des Moines. Myers has called the Pillar forges “the Disney World of software and business innovation.”
The announcement that Pillar Technology was interested in opening a forge in Jefferson was an important part of the campaign leading up to the successful bond referendum a month ago. The Jefferson forge will be located in the former Oddfellows hall west of the Sierra Community Theatre on E. State St. A $1.7 million renovation of the building will begin soon.
Coding and computer science will be one of the strands offered at the future regional career academy adjacent to the new high school. Iowa Central Community College president Dr Dan Kinney was among those at the celebration at the Des Moines forge. After completing the course at the career academy, students will be able to apply to do an intensive 8-18 month training program with Pillar Technology. After completing the program, they can apply for a fulltime job at Pillar with a starting salary of $55,000-$60,000.