Locals Take the Spotlight in New Amazon Web Services Docuseries

Alma Nunez Lezama prepares an order of cookies for an Amazon Web Services event. Lezama and her Boardman business, Xocolatl Bakery, are the first subjects of the AWS docuseries "Data Centered," which highlights the collaborations between the company and Eastern Oregon communities. (Photo courtesy of Amazon Web Services)

Amazon Web Services is shining its spotlight on collaborations with businesses, teachers and others in Umatilla and Morrow counties in a new docuseries, “Data Centered.”

The first episode premiered Wednesday, May 31. The docuseries details the stories of five subjects from Eastern Oregon who have collaborated with AWS — small business owners, students, teachers and AWS employers and employees.

AWS has a history of local collaboration since 2011. Cornelia Robinson, head of Inclusion and Outreach at AWS, said the company was honored to continue that deep commitment to the community.

“This collaboration really helps create that deep appreciation and has given us an opportunity to hear firsthand how lives and have been made better,” she said.

“Data Centered,” she said, highlights some of the ways AWS has been able to make a positive impact.

“What we wanted to do was make sure that there was a good representative set of subjects that were included,” she said.

Xocolatl Bakery

The first collaboration of “Data Centered” details Alma Lezama of Boardman and her small business, Xocolatl Bakery, and how AWS has effected the business’s growth.

“What I really love about the story of Alma is it represents the impact that we have, even with some of your smaller companies and organizations that you wouldn’t necessarily think about with these large investments,” Robinson said. “They, because of our presence, are able to continue their growth and span.”

Lezama said she had been living in Boardman for 20 years and started baking cakes before she gained popularity for her cookies.

Lezama recalled one of the first times she collaborated with AWS.

“It was on the second floor of the SAGE Center for Think Big, and they had ordered cookies for the opening,” she said.

Collaborations such as these between AWS and Xocolatl Bakery can be seen in the first episode of the docuseries, including a time when Lezama made cookies for AWS’s Girls Tech Day in October 2022.

“It was an amazing experience, being part of this big event – having all of these cameras in this tiny house while I was cooking” Lezama said. “I loved it. I loved every part.”

Lezama said when she picks up large projects like ones involving AWS, she has a reliable support system behind her in the form of her family, who make an appearance in the first episode of the docuseries.

“When there’s a big project like AWS asking for 200 cookies, I’ll be doing it and having them there, providing moral support is great,” Lezama said. “Having them help me, my kids, my family, I’m really grateful. They love to be a part of it and it definitely has a big impact.”

Farm City Fence

The subject of the next episode, premiering June 14, is Hermiston’s Farm City Fence, and its owners Ted Brittner and Shawn Eng.

Brittner and Eng provide high-security fencing for AWS and its data centers in Eastern Oregon.

“This collaboration with AWS is an ongoing unit,” Eng said. “We started working with them in 2008 and we’ve just been steadily growing our business through interacting with them — helping design new infrastructure, new cutting-edge technology and changing the face of security fencing in the Pacific Northwest.”

Eng said AWS approached Farm City with a set of plans or ideas, and together they work out how to form those ideas into a final product, reaching a common goal.

“When Amazon came and asked us to do certain types of fence, we researched and found the best solution,” Brittner added. “It’s great, it’s slow but steady, we’ve never gotten too far out over the front of our skis.”

Brittner said the collaboration with AWS has helped the company grow into larger projects and look ahead to the future.

“We can look to grow the company and pass it on to employees and family, and really invest in our research,” Brittner said.

“It’s helped a lot because we added more divisions,” Eng said. “We have a service-oriented business that works directly with the sites and a maintenance program that goes with that.”

Eng said Farm City Fence also added a concrete division, complete with concrete trucks.

Investing in the community

With each new subject in their docuseries, a common theme AWS is trying to tackle is the elevation and celebration of the community in which the company is deeply involved.

“We’re bringing their voices to the forefront,” Robinson said. “They’ve loved being a part of this and we’re just so grateful that they’ve been willing to tell their stories.”

“After the experience, I was plum-tickled with it,” Brittner said. “It was a good experience, I think, for the whole company and I would definitely do it again.”

“AWS has impacted the local community and worked with small contractors and large contractors in the area, it really drives home that they’re here to stay,” Brittner said. “They’ll invest their money into communities, colleges and infrastructure. It’s been a huge thing that I hope people realize that they’ve stepped up for the local community.”