- Microsoft and the City of Charlotte, NC have entered into a three-year agreement to create a regional center focused on STEM workforce development, internet of things (IoT) technology and innovation, according to a release from the city.
- The partnership will give Charlotte access to Microsoft technologies to work on pilot programs around five focus areas: upward mobility for residents, smart transit systems, public Wi-Fi networks, public safety infrastructure and safer neighborhoods. The partnership will also seek to expand tech education and employment opportunities.
- Charlotte is the second city to enter into this sort of partnership with Microsoft, following a similar initiative in Houston announced last year.
Charlotte has worked to build up its tech and research sector through the North End Smart District, an uptown area the city describes as a "hub for the city's innovation engine." Charlotte has piloted programs around energy use and tech education through the district, including a partnership with utility Duke Energy to test smart home technology. The city has also boosted its tech sector; a CompTIA report released last year ranked it as the top city for tech professionals based on average salary, employment opportunities and cost of living.
The Microsoft partnership will help build a "legacy for economic prosperity," said Kate Johnson, president of Microsoft U.S., in a press conference. The company already operates an office in Charlotte that employs more than 1,000 people, and said last month it would invest another $24 million in that facility to add around 400 jobs.
Microsoft has recently made a number of local investments to grow emerging tech communities. The company has announced three "technology hubs" in Louisville, KY, Houston and Syracuse, NY, where it partners with local governments and startups to build up the tech economy. The Charlotte partnership is an extension of a separate program started in Houston last year, where it partners directly with a city to deploy and pilot new technology (in Houston, the focus is on IoT devices and sensors).
Charlotte will benefit from the support of the tech giant as it moves forward on projects like public Wi-Fi networks, including access on transit and buses. The partnership will also include volunteer initiatives and hands-on training to allow more residents to take advantage of the new technology.