Touring the NEXT Innovation Center

When you walk into the NEXT Innovation Center, the spirit of collaboration and innovation is evident. Visitors are met with multiple gathering spaces, a stocked coffee bar and bright light pouring into skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows. Whiteboards line the halls, with artwork from the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts. As you make your way past company spaces with open windows, the focus of the teams inside is laser-sharp.

 The NEXT Innovation Center

The NEXT Innovation Center

The Carolina Code School campus is located in the NEXT Innovation Center, which our students had the opportunity to tour recently. On our tour, we talked with KOPIS president and CEO Andrew Kurtz about job prospects and software development.

Located in downtown Greenville off the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the NEXT Innovation Center currently supports 102 companies and has created 261 jobs. That’s about $52.3 million in total annual payroll, with an average salary of $69,443 (1.6x Greenville County’s average).

NEXT started as a group of tech entrepreneurs meeting for monthly lunches to talk about best practices and has evolved into an initiative supported by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Hughes Development Corporation. The Upstate innovators who first imagined NEXT identified that Greenville needed a means to support tech startups with talent, capital and facilities. As a result, the NEXT Innovation Center launched in 2008, NEXT on Main opened in 2015 in the heart of downtown Greenville and NEXT Manufacturing is now open on Birnie St.

 NEXT operations manager Christy Ashkettle giving Carolina Code School students a tour

NEXT operations manager Christy Ashkettle giving Carolina Code School students a tour

Reflecting on our tour, student Zach Thigpen said, “we've met several developers just coming to and from the coffee station at the front and they're always interested in what we are learning and doing. Every time we've talked to one of them, they end up reinforcing the things Joel is telling us in class. We're using very relevant technologies like Django and learning how to set up web based API's which is relevant in today's job environment.“

The spirit of collaboration is reflected in various gathering places throughout the building--from meet-up spaces to the community cafe (let’s be clear--that means free coffee!). NEXT creates spaces and events for thinkers, creators and business builders to come together. Our students have the unique opportunity to network over regular happy hours or to simply bump into an opportunity in the hallways. Our location not only reinforces our commitment to teaching students the skills they need to delve into the tech world, but also provides an environment in which to thrive.

Lelia King