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City takes next step toward GSU City Campus expansion

Council approves agreement with the university

City takes next step toward GSU City Campus expansion

City takes next step toward GSU City Campus expansion

The City of Statesboro and Georgia So...

    Councilmen finalized the City of Statesboro’s share of a deal to partner with Georgia Southern University for a possible expansion of the downtown City Campus and Entrepreneur Zone, E-Zone, during a meeting held Tuesday at City Hall.
    Council voted unanimously to approve a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a planned fabrication and business incubation center that would be added to the university’s current location on East Main Street.
    The agreed-upon memorandum sets terms for a partnership between the city and university, if the pair are awarded a nearly $1 million grant to be issued by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The deal is contingent on receiving grant funds, which are donated to programs throughout the country that help drive entrepreneurship and job creation.
    “This is truly a university and city partnership,” said Dr. Charles Patterson, the vice president of research and economic development at Georgia Southern. “The mission of the grant funding is to build upon the preincubation facilities currently located at the E-Zone, to really make this a full business incubation facility —which means dedicated offices, dedicated office suites for companies, access to our Bureau for Business Research and Economic Development and more robust incubation opportunities.”
    Business incubation facilities are designed to promote economic growth, offering programs that support the development of entrepreneurial companies through access to various resources and services.
    City Council agreed in May to move forward, along with Georgia Southern, in the grant application process to find funding for the expansion.
    Tuesday’s memorandum states that the City of Statesboro would pay Georgia Southern $50,000 per year, for three years, to help fund costs of operation and maintenance of the downtown facilities — which include improvements to the current City Campus location and renovation of the recently acquired former Yard and Haus building that sits nearby.
    “EDA funding would help renovate the two downtown buildings,” Patterson said. “One of those buildings would house an innovation part of the incubator — a fabrication laboratory. That facility would offer 3D printing capabilities, IT and computing services, and other types of activities that our students may be involved in — whether it’s in therapeutics and engineering, building medical devices, or looking at mobile applications and other IT applications.”
    The tradeoff for the city’s monetary contribution, councilmen say, is the potential economic development made possible by the incubation services and laboratories.
    “Bringing entrepreneurs here, starting them off in Statesboro, is good for the city. It’s all about economic development,” Councilman John Riggs said. “I believe this is a win-win for Georgia Southern University and the City of Statesboro. This is will be a state-of-the-art facility where anyone with an idea for some type of business will be able to go downtown and have access to the resources they need.”
    Patterson said the goal of the incubator would be to allow students, faculty and members of the community the opportunity to create and build a successful business.
    He said university representatives have experienced “good communication with principle people at EDA” and hope the grant application will succeed.
    “What better way to improve the business environment in the city than to cultivate home-grown businesses from the ground up?” Councilman Phil Boyum said. “Someone wanting to get their business off the ground can come to downtown Statesboro and receive expertise from Georgia Southern’s business department, engineering department and small business development experts all in one place. It is something that this area sorely needs and will make Statesboro and Bulloch County a better place.”
    Said Councilman Will Britt: “This is a great opportunity to take advantage of funds while splitting risks, and it keeps Georgia Southern downtown, which has been a goal of mine. We are looking forward to the working with Georgia Southern on the project, and I’m hoping that we see many great ideas emerge from the facilities.”
    If, for some reason, the fabrication lab and incubator concept doesn’t prove successful over time, Britt said, “then we’ve at least used federal monies to upgrade a building that someone else can use. We need this kind of space available for economic development.”
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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