Bill Strickland to study creation of Tech Center in Richmond

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email | facebook
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond is looking into the creation of an Arts and Technology Center. A man considered to be an expert in the field made a pitch to the mayor, city council and school superintendent today.

Bill Strickland is a Grammy winner, was recently appointed by the president to serve on a White House council, and he's the creator of highly successful Arts and Technology Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That center has sparked four more around the country...and now he's eyeing Richmond.

His centers teach the arts to at-risk children ages 13 to 17 and technical skills to chronically unemployed adults 18 and over.

"We're going after welfare moms and single parents, guys who've kind of been left behind," said Bill Strickland, CEO of Manchester Bidwell.

He goes to a city's main companies and says what type of workers do you need? Lab techs, cooking, construction? And his schools teach those specific trades.

Strickland made his pitch to the mayor and city council Thursday to study the idea of bringing such a center to Richmond.

He wants to look into: "Where we would put it? What it would cost? Who's going to run it? It's not a franchise we don't own these. It would be a locally Richmond run center, but you got to find people to do it," said Strickland.

School board member Kim Gray visited Strickland's center two years ago and believes it could be a good fit for the river city.

"I think that this project will be an excellent compliment to what's existing in our city. It's about collaborative efforts and working with the school system to enhance our offerings," Gray said.

Strickland started his first center in his home town of Pittsburgh, in the highest crime neighborhood. He says he's never had an incident of violence at his school.

He says if Richmond builds a center it must not compete with other programs.

"We want to make sure it doesn't compete with other existing organizations. That it's complimentary, so that it fits into the Richmond strategy," said Strickland.

The study will cost the city about $150,000. It could take anywhere from 6 months to a year to determine if a center could succeed in Richmond.

Besides Pittsburgh, there are arts and tech centers in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids and San Francisco. New Haven and Buffalo will each add one by the end of the year.

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