What Black Tech Week Has To Do With Redeveloping Miami’s Historically Underserved Overtown Area

Written by Dana Sanchez
Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Code Fever and Black Tech Week

Tech founders, high school students and community developers were among the guests, speakers and moderators at the Fifth Annual Black Tech Week Miami.

Black Tech Week has become one of the largest conference and networking events for people of color, providing opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators in underserved and underrepresented populations.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 09: BlackTech Week “Jamarlin talks to husband-and-wife team Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson about Black Tech Week, economic empowerment, and whether Silicon Valley is the global capital of white supremacy. “

Husband-and-wife team Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson founded Black Tech Week after starting Code Fever, a nonprofit Miami coding school. The goal was “to try and upscale our communities,” Hatcher said. “A lot of African Americans weren’t being invited to accelerators and incubators. We quickly realized that training was not enough.”

While everyone was trying to solve for the funding issues facing Black startups, there was an access issue that needed to happen first, Hatcher told an audience on Wednesday during a portion of Black Tech Week devoted to government and education.

GovEduCon was a daylong Black Tech Week event on smart cities, robust public K-12 STEM education, ecosystem building and competitiveness. The sessions were presented by AT&T and Virgin Brightline at the Miami Virgin Brightline Lounge.

Top leaders in government, education and economic development spoke at the event including Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Schools for Broward County; Hardie Davis, mayor of Augusta, Georgia; and Neil Shiver, executive director of the Overtown CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency).

Black Tech Week
Cristal Cole, AT&T regional director of external affairs for Northeast Miami-Dade County and School Board; Pete Meadows, director of external affairs for AT&T Atlanta; and Hardie Davis, mayor of Augusta, Georgia.

Overtown is a Miami neighborhood just northwest of downtown that was the historic center for Black commerce during the Jim Crow era.

The Virgin Brightline terminal is located in the Overtown area — part of a 1.6 million-square-foot privately financed development that includes two office towers, two apartment towers, 130,000 square feet of stores and restaurants.

“Let me tell you what we really bring to the game,” Shiver said, addressing high school students in the audience. “We’re redeveloping Overtown. It has suffered from neglect and this CRA is tasked with bringing in new opportunity — small business opportunities, affordable housing. When we negotiate contracts, we have you in mind — our future.”

Runci called for schools and entrepreneurs to work as one ecosystem.

“South Florida is the hottest construction market right now in the U.S.,” Runcie said. “If we want to push tech jobs, we’ve got to do what Silicon Valley and Boston and Austin did — where schools and entrepreneurs are working as one ecosystem.

“In South Florida … there’s a lot more tech companies than are recognized. We’ve just got to convince major venture capital to get involved. Then we’re going to take off.”

Mayor Davis gave advice to business owners looking to do business with local governments.

“You have to always think, ‘I am the small business. It’s not my product. It’s me,'” Davis said. “You want to become a vendor with the city and then look for opportunities with the city where your product or services have value.

“Even before then, make sure you are a registered business. Have that lined up first and that creates an opportunity,” Davis said.

BlackTech Week launched in Miami in 2014 and has since expanded to Austin, Texas; New York; Los Angeles; and New Orleans as BlackTech Weekend. Hatcher has been recognized twice by the White House for her entrepreneurial endeavors, according to Tampa Bay Times.