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Bulloch County industry training, innovation labs get $500,000 boost
OneGeorgia awards grant to Georgia Southern, Ogeechee Tech and Bulloch County Development Authority
Bulloch County Seal PNG

The OneGeorgia Authority has approved a $500,000 grant for workforce development and business innovation efforts in the Statesboro and Bulloch County area, recipient organizations revealed Friday.

The Development Authority of Bulloch County, Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical College worked together on the proposal, called the Statesboro-Bulloch Regional Career and Workforce Initiative. The money will go to purchase equipment and software for two previously announced projects: the Industrial Maintenance and Advanced Manufacturing Skills program being added at Ogeechee Tech and the Innovation Incubator and Fabrication Laboratory, or FabLab, being added to Georgia Southern's City Campus.

"The Development Authority of Bulloch County is pleased to be in a position to facilitate this funding, which will add to the existing community-wide efforts to improve the skill levels of our workforce and increase job creation and capital investment here," said Benjy Thompson, the authority's CEO.

"Our success in securing these funds is in large part due to the community-wide support for these programs, which built on the tremendous efforts of the City of Statesboro and the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority in the initial stages of what later became this grant request," he said.

The statements from Thompson and other officials quoted here are from a news release provided by the Development Authority of Bulloch County. The university also issued a release with much of the same wording.

The Industrial Maintenance and Advanced Manufacturing Skills training program at Ogeechee Tech is a joint venture between OTC, the Development Authority of Bulloch County, the Development Authority of Screven County and several private for-profit companies. It is a response to an urgent need for technicians skilled in industrial maintenance expressed by area industries.

"As many of the employees who provide technical support for industries reach retirement age, replacing those individuals becomes a challenge," said Lori Durden, vice president for economic development at Ogeechee Tech.

"Whether training someone who already works for one of the local manufacturers, or training those who will seek employment with an industry, the programs supported by this grant will help meet the industrial maintenance needs that exist," she said.

The training also can play a role in attracting more industry, OTC President Dr. Dawn H. Cartee observed.

"As our workforce becomes more skilled, businesses considering locating or expanding into our region will be confident in their ability to secure a highly-trained workforce for their projects," she said. "This project is a major step in establishing a prepared workforce in our region and Southeast Georgia."

The grant also will provide funding to GSU to use, along with other funding provided by the university, to buy computers, software, 3-D printers and other rapid prototyping equipment for the Innovation Incubator and FabLab. This project is a joint venture between GSU, the DSDA, the city of Statesboro and the Statesboro Arts Council.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded these local partner organizations a $1.1 million grant last year for the renovations to buildings that now will constitute the expanded GSU City Campus on East Main Street. But officials had noted that additional funds were needed to equip the new facilities.

"This grant will assist in positively affecting workforce training across the spectrum of workforce skills in the Southeast Georgia region connected to Georgia Southern, the Ogeechee Tech service delivery area and the Statesboro and Bulloch County community," said GSU President Dr. Brooks A. Keel. "With the increased amount of growth happening in the state of Georgia right now, we couldn't be more excited about this opportunity."

The Innovation Incubator and FabLab are intended to give entrepreneurs and students a place to develop business and product ideas and create prototypes. The concept was pioneered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has established an international network of fabrication labs and field-tested the equipment used in them.

"The FabLab constitutes a multidisciplinary approach to innovation and business creation that is backed by areas of strength one would expect from a Comprehensive Doctoral University like Georgia Southern," said Charles Patterson, GSU vice president of research and economic development. "Science, information technology, engineering, computer science, business and the arts converge to make this space a hub for knowledge sharing and business creation in the heart of Downtown Statesboro."


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