Watch Studio Statesboro segment about the City Campus. Click here:
With the opening of its new City Campus in downtown Statesboro last week, Georgia Southern officials hope to create synergy between the university and Statesboro's business community.
The City Campus will house the university's Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development along with an E-Zone, which is part of the university's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Learning.
The E-Zone will consist of classrooms and meeting space, but will also house areas that small businesses can utilize during their initial start-up phase.
"Our pride and joy is the entrepreneur zone," said Ronald Shiffler, dean of the College of Business Administration at Georgia Southern. "We are calling it the E-Zone, because this where we hope to start businesses, nurture them off of the ground, then push them out of the door and let Statesboro hire them. Who knows, maybe the next Google will start right here."
The City Campus, located right next to City Hall, is a joint-effort between Georgia Southern, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority and the city of Statesboro designed to boost the economic development of the city and downtown area.
"It strengthens our partnership with our 'town and gown' which is very important to our community," said Allen Muldrew, executive director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority. "It also brings an economic impact from the university, its students, as well as the faculty and staff. We also believe that it will spawn starter businesses that once started, and on their way, will stay downtown."
Shiffler said he thinks the new campus will provide greater exposure for the university's Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development (BBRED).
"BBRED has been kind of hard to find on campus, so now we have them out in the open here," he said. "BBRED provides comprehensive and insightful economic analyses and business research such as studies on consumer confidence, holiday shopping expectations, real estate trends, and the economic impact of Georgia Southern. They are a wonderful resource."
Dominique Halaby, director of BBRED, said he is very pleased with relocation of his bureau from the College of Business Administration on GSU's campus to downtown.
"I think that the proximity to downtown and the business community is very important as it will allow us to create a presence," Halaby said. "By doing that, business owners and executives, as well as government officials will become more aware of the services that we provide which are extensive."
Halaby said BBRED can provide, among other services, business plan development, background data analysis, and website development and site management.
"We can help businesses and governmental entities see what opportunities lay ahead so that they can plan for those," he said. "The information that we produce is not generally produced by state or federal agencies."
In addition to the E-Zone and BBRED, the university has installed a state-of-the-art conference room as well as classrooms in its downtown campus.
"Our conference room has extreme technology video conferencing capabilities," Shiffler said. "As an example of how the conference room can be used, lawyers will be able to come in and take a deposition from afar, so they don't have to go to somewhere like Atlanta or beyond to do that."
According to Muldrew, the idea for the City Campus came from a discussion at Snooky's restaurant.
"I was sitting down with some of our community leaders at Snooky's one day, including Ron Shiffler who was chairman of the Chamber at that time, and we just started floating ideas," Muldrew said. "The entrepreneur center was kind of a start, then it blossomed to BBRED, and they (GSU officials) expanded it to include the university store. Then people got really excited. It took a tremendous amount of cooperation between Georgia Southern, the city of Statesboro, and the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority. I applaud (GSU President) Dr. Brooks Keel for his vision in all of this."
Even though the campus is clearly a business related and educational endeavor, the bookstore aspect of the campus provides tremendous visibility for Georgia Southern.
"The front of the campus is an annex of the bookstore," Shiffler said. "We hope that soft goods and Eagle nation merchandise will just go flying out of here. We want to make it as convenient as possible for people to purchase Georgia Southern merchandise."
Shiffler said for those who have a "start-up" idea and are interested in working with Georgia Southern's new E-Zone, they should do the following.
"We have a center for entrepreneurial learning and leadership headed by Dr. Luke Pittaway," he said. "We would get them in touch with Luke, and his advisory board would help them craft a business plan if they don't have one. If they are already in business, we can locate them in the E-Zone. We are going to offer an incubation type of environment for them. We will give them a place to have an office, answer phones for them, and supply them with some mentorship. Our whole goal is to nurture them into something that can survive on their own."