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Grant to help city, GSU to open the state's first FabLab

Grant to help city, GSU to open the state's first FabLab

Grant to help city, GSU to open the state's first FabLab

Georgia Southern and the City of Stat...

New businesses create new jobs, and lead to economic prosperity.

That is the formula favored by officials with Georgia Southern University and the City of Statesboro, who Thursday took a major step to prove their theory correct.

The university and city officials announced Thursday that the pair have been awarded a nearly $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to expand the Georgia Southern City Campus, and create an only-of-its-kind facility in Georgia to help build businesses and create new products from the ground up.

Combining the grant with a nearly $800,000 financial commitment by the City of Statesboro — to purchase the Yard and Haus building next to City Campus — Georgia Southern plans to build an Innovation Incubator/FabLab.

The space will provide cutting-edge technologies, such as 3-D printing, that will help turn ideas into new products.

“We are really excited about this. We are going to be the first FabLab in Georgia that is a part of the global FabLab network started out of MIT, where people can come in and create just about anything they desire,” said Dr. Dominique Halaby, Director for the college’s Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development (BBRED). “We will be the first place in Georgia where people can come in to use 3-D printing, electronic stations and other equipment to create. If you can think of a concept and develop it, you’ll have the infrastructure here to be able to produce it.”

Within the lab, entrepreneurs will be able to design/produce new technologies, inventions and devices that Georgia Southern can license, patent and protect, then transform into companies.

An example would be: an inventor has a clever design for a new ergonomically-correct chair, but only a drawing and no resources to produce it. In the lab, the inventor could build a working prototype.

The business incubator and city campus will also offer resources to create marketing and business plans, and provide information about investors and loan applications as a way to turn products created in the lab into viable businesses.

“We, Georgia Southern, have a tremendous responsibility that we take very seriously to not only train the sons and daughters of Georgia and beyond, but to add to the economic development of the region in which we live,” said Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel. “Through this (grant and other contributions), we’re able to put in place a very unique business incubator that will allow us to grow businesses right here in Statesboro, Georgia. It will attract existing entrepreneurs in this community and allow them to become successful, and serve as a magnet for new business and industry from across the world. This gives Georgia Southern a chance to take our role as an economic driver and put it into action.”

University officials lauded the efforts of city partners, who made the project possible.

“This partnership will create an environment of economic development and growth unparalleled in this part of the state of Georgia. It will distinguish the City for its ability to host business creation, support local businesses, and support the innovation, creation and retention of jobs for our citizens,” said Statesboro City Councilman, and Mayor Pro Tem, Will Britt. “What you hope is: someone comes in, develops an idea, and continues to move it forward, then stays in town to create a business. They gain employees, build in Statesboro and have a full blown product.”

In addition to purchasing the building, the city committed to paying $50,000 annually for three years to help cover ongoing operation expenses at the facility.

“No longer is Bulloch County competing against its neighboring counties, but it is competing against the entire state of Georgia, the country, and globally,” said City Councilman Phil Boyum. “This facility will help Georgia Southern and the City move forward and leap into the 21st century.”

Said Statesboro Mayor Joe Brannen: “We feel the collaboration with Georgia Southern through the City Campus is important to the continued improvement of downtown Statesboro. These investments in our city will undoubtedly pay off many times over as we move forward.”

The expansion to City Campus has a projected total cost of $1.8 million. The facility houses BBRED, the Statesboro office of the Small Business Development Center, and the university’s Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership.

Several local, state and federal government officials, as well as community leaders and Georgia Southern staff, were on-hand for the announcement, held on East Main Street, in front of City Campus.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the small business owners who are going to find the resources here that they need to compete and to grow; for Georgia Southern to break out and be a leader in business development; and for this community to show how you can come together to create the conditions to grow businesses,” said U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

“I’m proud of the business opportunities that will be created here and jobs that small businesses will create because of the investment we made here today. It is a great investment on the part of the city, the state of Georgia, and the federal government.”

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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