Bitwise Industries, a Central Valley technology company geared toward giving low-income residents an opportunity to get a tech-based education, opened the doors of its downtown Merced business hub this week. Bitwise Industries, which was founded in 2013 in Fresno, offers workspace for its members and leases out office suites. It also offers workforce training classes and tech consulting for local businesses. The new business hub is located at 1635 M St., on the corner of M Street and Main Street. “Bitwise Industries goes into underestimated communities and we build tech ecosystems using our three-pronged approach, which includes real estate — having a place and space — it also includes workforce training programs and tech consulting services,” said Norma Cardona, who is the vice president of Bitwise Industries in Merced.
The 6,500-square-foot office houses a co-working space that features tables and desks available for members. It’s designed for budding entrepreneurs and startup companies like a solo Realtor, online marketer or micro business owner. “People can come in, they’ll have a desk, they’ll have a chair, they’ll also have access to 20 free black and white copies and access to a conference room,” Cardona said. Memberships cost $40 per month with a student rate at $25 per month. The working space is set up for 40 members, but is currently being limited to about 20 to 25 members due to COVID-19 protocols. The working space is always open.
Students from these classes have the opportunity to earn one-year, paid internships with Bitwise Industries. The classes are designed to give people from marginalized communities — which includes people who formerly were incarcerated, formerly homeless, women, people from working-class families, the LGBTQ+ community and people of color — the opportunity to learn skills that could lead to tech jobs. Right now the classes are only offered remotely due to the pandemic. For more information on the workforce training, visit the Bitwise Industries website. Bitwise Industries also offers tech consulting for area businesses, including smaller restaurants that lacked websites and nonprofits that struggled to attract donors, according to Bitwise vice president Katherine Verducci. “Our tech consulting really helps up-level all the businesses that are in the area,” Verducci said.
Bitwise aims to create tech economy in Merced. Bitwise has opened hubs in places like Fresno and Bakersfield. Merced has similar characteristics and became a desired destination for the company. “We saw that there was high unemployment or underemployment, we saw that there was a high poverty rate,” Cardona said. “Actually one of the great things that we saw was UC Merced and the investment into downtown. So all those things are things we considered and we said, ‘we want to go into Merced.'” “We want to create that tech economy that is going to ignite transformations throughout the community,” Cardona added. “So people who are left out of opportunities, people who are surviving, people who are underemployed can really take advantage of these opportunities and get into a place of really thriving.”
Originally officials were eyeing an opening date in early 2021, but the pandemic delayed the opening. Cardona says Bitwise is thrilled to finally open its doors in downtown Merced. “We are so excited that we have this here now,” Cardona said. “A lot of people have been talking about it, a lot of people have heard about it, but it’s not until you see it in person, it’s not until you’re here that you’re really able to capture it and feel what Bitwise is all about.”