The Columbus City Council on Monday approved a $400,000 city grant to a startup computer coding school on the Near East Side that focuses on preparing Black workers for technology careers.
The cash infusion to Color Coded Labs, which started in the spring of 2021 with the backing of investments from venture capitalists including Mark Kvamme, who served as the top economic advisor to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, passed as an emergency “in that it is immediately necessary” in order “to avoid causing interruptions in the delivery of program services.”
The grant, from the city’s general fund that pays for most basic services such as police and fire protection, trash pickup and others, will allow for reimbursement of the firm retroactively back to Jan. 1, the ordinance says.
Last year the firm had asked the city for $1.5 million in development support for 2022, and the city agreed that the $400,000 installment approved Monday could cover expenses incurred at any time this year, said Michael S. Brown, chief of staff for Council President Shannon Hardin. Another $300,000 in city support is under consideration, and may come up for a vote within a few weeks, Brown said.
“Our expectation is this program we are paying for, so we are giving a grant to make sure that this program happens,” Brown said. “This program, without these funds, would probably not exist … unless they did other significant fundraising efforts.”
The council voted 6-0 to approve the measure, with member Shayla Favor abstaining.
The money will be dispensed through the city development department. City Development Director Michael Stevens, who couldn’t be immediately reached Monday night for information on exactly what Columbus gets in return.
A media release on the meeting said the grant is “to offer a multi-week coding bootcamp that provides adults with high-demand tech skills that will provide transformative, above-average incomes and job mobility.”
Brown said the agreement generally calls for the city tax dollars to go toward subsidizing student tuition and “capacity building” to allow for the program to hire tutors to ramp up classes.
McCollough couldn’t be reached Monday evening. The Dispatch reported that McCollough’s co-founders were Kvamme, a venture capitalist, tech professionals and entrepreneurs Branden Jones, Bruce Jones and Kevin Lloyd, and investors Rev1 Ventures and JumpStart.
A laptop computer is included with tuition, and Color Coded Labs offers an income-sharing option that allows students to pay the cost of the program back in installments once they’ve secured a job. The company also helps students secure scholarships.