Monday, March 24, 2014

Opinion: The Technology Revolution and How Hagerstown Missed It

The following is a guest Opinion article. The WashCo Chronicle and its editor are not responsible for its content. If you would like to contribute to the WashCo Chronicle, please contact on the Facebook Page.

In the year 2014, we have wireless phones with the computing power greater than most desktop home computers in 2001.  GPS devices are built into nearly every new car manufactured at no additional cost to the consumer.  Social networking has become a standard that even the most technology inclined are connected to their family and loved ones.  Washington and California have respectably become the Silicon Valley behemoths of all things tech in the United States.

Where does Hagerstown stand in the technology revolution?  One only needs to take a look around and see how far we have fallen behind.  Until the late 1940s, Hagerstown was a booming center for the railroad known by its current moniker today, “Hub City.”  Since that thriving time however, we see that the “Hub City” with its prime location in-between major metropolitan areas has slowed its growth.  Hagerstown has struggled to evolve with the times, failing to capitalize on the massive profits of technology and its amazing benefits.

The average computer technician honestly does not have a chance when it comes to employment within the city.  One could argue that anyone can travel to the larger cities to engage in employment with large firms, but why should they have to?  To put things into perspective, the average IT specialist salary is $43,000 [1]. Already, that salary alone is well above the median household income of $37,289 from the 2008-2012 Census [2]. One person already can make more, based off the national average; compared to the income of an entire household.  The numbers are astounding at the difference in income for the booming careers that Hagerstown does not provide.

Where is the opportunity around Hagerstown, when we have so much to offer? Our local college, Hagerstown Community College, provides classes for various IT and Networking degrees.  Why should our students have to travel to either the West Coast or somewhere else far away from their home?  We see large companies operating in Hagerstown, such as Citigroup or Volvo Powertrain.  We know that large companies can be successful.  However, many of the companies providing employment in the Hagerstown area do not provide a wage that even compares to the income of an average IT specialist.

How difficult can it be for our city to encourage large IT firms to move or expand their locations to the Hagerstown area?  We already know that the surrounding area is a “Hub City” with great reach.   What happened to our city with keeping up with the times?  There are plenty of incentives that the city could provide for companies to be here, but we have never seen it occur.  A reoccurring problem that we see within the city is satisfaction is being stagnant.  For years, we have seen our downtown suffer with businesses that come and go as often as the sun sets.  What did the city do before; that brought in companies like Citigroup, First Data, Lenox, and so on?  We all know it’s possible.  The question is, why isn’t anything being done?  It’s the year 2014, and the computer industry as a collective makes billions of dollars a year. The gaming industry alone made over 20 billion dollars in 2012 alone [3]. How amazing would it be if we had a piece of the gaming industry within our town?  There would be more of a demand for tourism and much more money being put back into the local economy.  Those who make more, spend more.  We could literally see a dynamic increase in local businesses from just the addition of one new tech company alone.

It would appear that Hagerstown has missed its opportunity.  The current forecast of our town shows more of the same.  It would be highly recommended that technology driven individuals gather up their resources and make their way to another place where talents can be adequately used and appreciated.  To everyone who is an inspiring IT or computer field related individual, go make an “average” salary making more than the average household.  In a few years, you have a good chance at making twice that; while the rest of the town settles on a below standard of living wage.  Sadly for Hagerstown, the future is out there and not here.

David Malekar is the owner of DMM Computer Repair Services in Hagerstown.

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