TAMPA — Hispanics developed Tampa nearly 130 years ago when the cigar industry moved the city from a largely agricultural township to an industrialized city.
The cigar industry attracted hundreds of workers everyday to Tampa with the promise of a more modern city and high wages. Hispanics laid the foundation for a modern Tampa.
Today, however, Tampa is focused on attracting innovative technology companies and many Hispanics are getting left behind.
A conference held at Nova Southeastern University's Tampa campus in Sabal Park on Monday brought together Hispanics in Tampa's technology industry to discuss Hispanics and Hispanic women in the industry in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Marisol Casablanca, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Tampa Bay vice president and an IT consultant, spoke mainly about cyber security, but started off her keynote address by pointing out the lack of diversity in the technology industry.
"There is a commitment in the market right now about growing diversity and I think institutions and economic development partners should take advantage of that and promote that," Casablanca said.
Latinos hold only 7 percent of all technology jobs nationally. White Americans make up 71 percent of workers.
Over the last few years, Tampa Bay has become friendlier to the technology and startup industries. Tampa Bay is now a part of the Florida High Tech Corridor and boasts a number of startup incubators such as Tampa Bay Wave, USF Connect and the Tampa Bay Innovation Center.
Science and technology related jobs make up roughly 5.5 percent of Tampa's job market.
Casablanca, who has been in the technology industry for more than 30 years, said she believes the economic development partners should all be promoting the technology industry in Tampa and the inclusion of minority groups.
The White House recently called on the industry to be more diverse in their hiring. Along with the release of data showing a staggering lack of diversity in the biggest technology companies such as Apple, Google and Intel, many industry giants have agreed to hire more minorities and women.
With companies looking to bring on a more diverse workforce, Casablanca said now is the best time to encourage women and Hispanics in Tampa to consider technology jobs.
In addition to speaking about the needed diversity in technology, the conference also recognized the impact of Hispanics in technology. Nova Southeastern University assistant professor Mirtha Whaley spoke about the emerging technologies used in occupational therapy.
Tony Selvaggio organized the Hispanics in Technology conference. The owner of a local electronics recycling startup, eSmart Recycling, Selvaggio said he has worked with startup incubators and has taken advantage of other workshops in Tampa, but is hoping more Hispanics will take part in the industry.
Events such as the one held Monday might help connect more Hispanic entrepreneurs in Tampa to the technology industry. Representatives from AT&T's Hispanic outreach group, HACEMOS, attended the networking event.
"With Tampa becoming such a hub in the state of Florida for tech jobs and add the fact that we have such a large Hispanic population here, Tampa should encourage and foster the Hispanic population getting involved in the industry," Selvaggio said.
Contact Roberto Roldan at email@example.com.