When Blackboard started the hunt for a new location for a global HQ, “obviously we looked at various areas around the metro D.C. area,” Lisa Mayr, VP of finance and treasurer at Blackboard told Technical.ly.
But Mayor Muriel Bowser didn’t want to let the “metro area” win out over the District proper.
From the Mayor’s perspective, “keeping a prominent company like Blackboard in the District demonstrates the strength of our market, and sends a strong signal that D.C. is a good place to do business.”
Ultimately, as you’re probably aware, D.C. won out. Blackboard officially opened its old/new HQ at 1111 19th St. NW with a visit from the Mayor herself at the beginning of the month.
One part of the win, no doubt, was the $1 million tenant improvement grant Blackboard received under Mayor Bowser’s Creative and Open Space Modernization grant program. The grant, according to a press release, will “assist with various tenant improvements in connection with the office relocation.”
But the money comes with some stipulations — namely that Blackboard implement a variety of programs designed to give back to the community. Technical.ly got on the phone with Blackboard’s Mayr to hear more about what these programs will look like, practically speaking.
First off, Blackboard’s promise to recruit and hire more District residents. Mayr told Technical.ly the company aims to create 40 to 50 new jobs in the next year — they’ll target D.C. residents for filling these jobs by posting on dcnetworks.org (D.C.’s employment services portal) and other similar places.
Blackboard has also pledged to offer youth development — Mayr told Technical.ly the company will participate in the District’s Summer Youth Employment Program. She said Blackboard plans to hire at least three summer interns through the program this coming summer.
A third pledge, this one quite broad and undefined, is Blackboard’s promise to offer “free space, products, and/or services to low-income and underserved communities.” According to Mayr, Blackboard already enjoys a “very service-oriented employee base,” so this type of commitment doesn’t fall far outside interests the company, as a whole, already has. She did mention plans to participate in the DC Central Kitchen lunch program, and donate furniture and tech to DC Public Schools.
During the conversation Mayr also mentioned a variety of education-focused events that Blackboard is looking to host at the new office, including events with DCFemTech and Women in Technology.
“D.C. has been a great partner,” Mayr said, adding that Blackboard is “very excited” about the new HQ. When it comes to giving back, well, the programs are “things we wanted to do anyway.” For Mayr, the whole deal seems like a win-win.
And indeed, that might be the right way to describe it. Keeping an industry-leading edtech company like Blackboard in the District is undeniably a boon for a government trying to bill the city as the next great tech hub.
But when it comes to making D.C. an inclusive tech hub (another goal of the Bowser administration), will hiring a few summer interns and donating to DCPL be enough?