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$1.1M grant to help expand City Campus

Plans for an unused downtown building, further expansion of another and an oversized check will all be unveiled Thursday at a special downtown Statesboro event highlighting economic development.

Local, state and national leaders will be on hand as Georgia Southern University and the city of Statesboro officially announce Thursday that they have been jointly awarded a grant of nearly $1.1 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to expand the university's City Campus on East Main Street to help entrepreneurs design, build and send their products into the marketplace while creating new jobs.

"This grant will go a long way in helping us foster a culture of innovation and creation in Statesboro," said Dominique Halaby, the director of the Bureau for Business Research and Economic Development, or BBRED, and the central figure responsible for obtaining the award.

The $1,097,360 investment from the EDA puts City Campus in position to become a hub for business creation and economic development. The state-of-the-art incubation facility will include office space for companies with full service and support, and in the fabrication laboratory, there will be digital fabrication and 3D printing technology.

The grant was not possible without the city's nearly $800,000 financial commitment to purchase the Yard and Haus building from Farmers & Merchants Bank and the City Campus from the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority.

"We feel the collaboration with the Georgia Southern through the City Campus is important to the continued improvement of downtown Statesboro," Mayor Joe Brannen said.

The city's investment comes from its portion of special purpose local option sales tax dollars - the 1 percent sales tax earmarked for capital improvements. Also, in June, City Council agreed to commit $50,000 annually for three years to help cover operational expenses.

"While it's important to try and attract industry and commercial business to our community, it is equally important to encourage local business growth," Councilman Phil Boyum said.

The expansion, which has a projected total cost of nearly $1.9 million, will house BBRED, the Small Business Development Center's Statesboro office and GSU's Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership.

Downtown Statesboro Development Authority director Allen Muldrew said there will be a space in the back of the existing City Campus building, currently housing the Averitt Center dance studio, which will house rental spaces for aspiring ceramic artists. The dance studio will be moved to West Main Street.

U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., will be on hand for the check presentation with Georgia Southern President Dr. Brooks Keel and Brannen.

The ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the City Campus Building just east of City Hall. Afterward, there will be opportunities to see displays highlighting components of the building, the current capabilities of the City Campus and architectural renderings of possible exterior building improvements.

The entire community is encouraged to attend the event. Portions of East Main Street from Oak Street to Railroad Street will be closed for the event, starting at 3 p.m.


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