The new Bitwise office will be located in the historic Jefferson Center building of Toledo, Ohio, which was once the site of an old post office. Image via Google Earth
Written by Ravyn Cullor
Bitwise’s upcoming location in Toledo, Ohio, which will include an innovation center and workforce development efforts, just got a $1 million boost from the Owens Corning Foundation.
Bitwise Industries has partnered with Ohio-based health care provider ProMedica to renovate a rundown former vocational school in uptown Toledo known as the Jefferson Center. Bitwise will bring in workforce development programs, similar to those in place in Fresno.
The donation was made to Neighborhood Industries, which frequently partners with Bitwise to make sure training and internship programs offer opportunities to those in the community who can benefit from it the most, said Anthony Armour, CEO of Neighborhood Industries.
“We help Bitwise run programs and oversee developing programs so we’re maximizing the value for those who need it,” Armour said. “For Bitwise to try to go it alone, it would be like trying to park an aircraft carrier in a driveway. You can’t do it.”
Five to six years ago, Toledo came together and outlined a number of “catalytic projects” to improve their downtown, said Owen Corning Foundation President Don Rettig. One major project was the introduction of an innovation center which would support startups and workforce development in the area.
At the same time Toledo was ready to start the project, Rettig said Bitwise was looking to expand and the mix of Bitwise’s track record, their founder’s history in the city and similarity between challenges in Fresno and Toledo made a strong partnership.
“It was interesting there was such a strong connection with Bitwise, it all fell into place,” Rettig said. “It’s like it dropped right in our laps, the perfect solution to something we started five years ago.”
Robin Whitney, chief strategic planning, business development and real estate officer of ProMedica, who originally purchased the building and partnered with Bitwise, said the health care provider invests in projects that improve the social determinants of health.
A spokesperson for Bitwise said the Jefferson Center will serve as the company’s Toledo headquarters. The innovation center to be housed in the center will improve odds for startup businesses and training for underemployed members of the community, Whitney said.
The Jefferson Center, originally built in 1911 as the downtown Toledo post office, became a vocational school in the 1970s and closed around 20 years ago, Whitney said. It’s been sitting empty since.
Whitney and Rettig said they feel the center will serve as a great benefit to the area, which Rettig said already hosts a vibrant arts and restaurant community, and Armour said he’s confident Bitwise’s workforce training will help underserved populations in the area.