Power Up fair connects neighborhood to technology


The Baxter Community Center in southeast Grand Rapids is a nonprofit that offers “a Christian response to human needs.” Courtesy Jonathan Jelks

A technology networking event intended to connect young entrepreneurs, women and minorities with entrepreneurial resources and opportunities is coming to Grand Rapids next week.

The Power Up Technology Fair will showcase local technology companies and nonprofits and take place on July 21 at Baxter Community Center, from 6-8 p.m, at 935 Baxter St. SE.

People of all ages and backgrounds are invited to participate in the free networking event, and no registration is required.

The event

Power Up was developed and organized by Jonathan Jelks, Empower Michigan activist, and Alvin J. Hills IV, founder and executive director of Endless Opportunities.

Jelks said the event will bring Grand Rapids-based emerging technology companies and advocacy organizations into the Baxter neighborhood to increase technology-related access to the community.

“Last year, I hosted a forum entitled The Future of Michigan’s Workforce, which A.J. attended with some of his mentees,” Jelks said. “Our collaboration began there. Power Up is a derivative of that community conversation. We wanted to follow-up the wonderful exchange of ideas with actions, starting with connecting neighborhoods most in need to the jobs and businesses of the future.”

Several of organizations will be at Power Up: Atomic Object; Software GR; Aim West; Fathom; Soletics; GR Urban League; GRABB; Emerge West Michigan; and GR Current.

The networking event will allow people to learn more about the companies and employment opportunities at booths and feature a short panel discussion on emerging technology in the Grand Rapids area.


Jelks said one of the main inspirations for the event was seeing Grand Rapids rank among the worst places economically for African-Americans in a ranking by Forbes. The collaborators wanted to bring industry directly into communities most in need.

“There are also quite a few millennials who have degrees, but cannot find work in Grand Rapids,” Jelks said. “Although many of the companies are lean, small businesses, there are plenty of opportunities for young people once they are plugged in with the network.”

As Grand Rapids transitions into a hub for technology startups and life sciences, Jelks said it's important for people to know what type of employment opportunities will be available in the next 50 years.

“The more we can directly connect people with the Medical Mile and the SmartZone, the better prepared the community will be to take advantage of the creative economy,” Jelks said. “We want parents to understand what type of education their child needs to have in order to be able to code and be proficient in software design.”

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