Bringing tech careers, not just jobs, to rural America

A new initiative aims to make America's rural heartland an outpost for software developers and the tech companies who need them.

Change is coming to rural Jefferson, Iowa. It’s the kind of change that Linc Kroeger hopes will spread to more communities across the middle of the country in the very near future.

“My passion is turning around rural. It’s devastating for me to visit these rural communities that are just drying up,” says Kroeger. “Everyone is moving to urban centers. Many say, ‘I would love to live rural, but what would I do?’”

Kroeger leads the R3 initiative for Pillar Technology, a Columbus, Ohio-based coding and software development consulting firm. R3 stands for Revive. Rebuild. Restore. and its mission is bringing tech jobs to rural America.

Linc Kroeger
Linc Kroeger. Photo – Pillar Technology

“I’m sitting in this tech creation center in Des Moines, and most of my colleagues are from rural [communities]. So, the talent is there. There’s just not the education, and there are not the opportunities for jobs and careers,” Kroeger says.

This June, Pillar is opening a new $1.7 million office in Jefferson, a six-square-mile rural town of 4,100 located about 65 miles northwest of Des Moines. They’ll be taking over a 6,000 square-foot vacant building in downtown. Right now, the tech company has about 75 tech consultants in Iowa. Kroeger hopes to eventually hire about 25 or 30 people for the new Jefferson office.

On stage, these leaders championed the work done by Pillar and its collaborators. “You guys have innovation here. With the leadership being provided, and the new model you are trying here, you have the potential of creating something great,” said Blue. “The collaborative work you are doing with community colleges, government, and entrepreneurs is a powerful combination. I think Jefferson could be a lighthouse for attacking this problem all across the United States.”

Microsoft’s Scott grew up in an economically-depressed area of rural Virginia. “I believe this work can give young people in rural parts of the country, in Iowa, an opportunity to stay where they want to be,” he said. “To have opportunities for really great tech jobs, to build lives for themselves, and to build an economic foundation for themselves and for the community.”

Representative Khanna is an outspoken advocate for keeping tech jobs in America. “The digital revolution is something that every community should and can participate in,” Representative Khanna told the group. “What we need to do is make sure that young folks have the opportunities to stay in Jefferson and participate in the new economy. “

Kroeger says he dreamed of moving back to rural Iowa for many years, but the opportunity wasn’t there. “I got married and had kids earlier in life, but after six years I was like, ‘Man, I would love to move back and live there, and have my tech career that I have now, but I couldn’t.’ It just didn’t exist.”

He’s proud that Pillar Technology is helping make that dream a reality for others. “We’re not really just bringing in jobs. We’re bringing in careers, and we’re bringing in the possibility for people’s kids and families to stay (in Jefferson). They can work on the things that they want to work on that would otherwise be out of Iowa. They can do the coolest job in the world right from there.”