Attention, all community and region stakeholders! We need your help!
OK, that may have been a bit over-energetic, however, we are trying to reach out to leaders in the area and ask for help getting behind a state grant application being run through the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA.
As many know, after I took office, the City of Statesboro worked closely with Georgia Southern University to aggressively go after Economic Development Authority matching grant funds to expand the downtown City Campus. Particularly, we sought an EDA grant to renovate buildings for the development of a fabrication laboratory and a business incubator.
To review, the "fab lab" will be a creative space - full of 3D printers, AutoCAD stations, welding stations and the like - for inventors to develop, test and fine-tune new products. It could even be used - in a potential partnership with Bulloch County Schools - as a place to improve STEM learning. (LEGO robot wars, anyone?)
The incubator will be a place for start-up businesses to access the vast expertise and knowledge base of Georgia Southern, particularly the various agencies within the College of Business Administration (BBRED, SBDC, GENIE, CELL, etc.). In addition, the Averitt Center for the Arts would operate an art incubator to assist local artists create, fire and market their work.
The overarching idea was to create a space for creativity and inventiveness for our regional talent while creating new jobs and growing new businesses right here in our community.
Last June, the City Council voted unanimously to commit $795,000 of the City of Statesboro's SPLOST dollars to acquire the buildings for City Campus expansion using funds earmarked - by the voters - for economic development.
Georgia Southern committed to manage the facility and agreed to move a number of their entrepreneurial, research and small business resources downtown. Most importantly, the EDA gave the project its blessing by awarding the collaborative effort nearly $1.1 million in funds.
This brings me back to the grant. In a nutshell, the DSDA - with the city and university as joint applicants - is seeking $400,000 in non-matching funds for the purchase of specialized machinery, computers and office equipment for the City Campus. These funds would be awarded by the OneGeorgia Authority - a state agency charged with improving the economic environment and increasing the economic vitality in the rural areas of our state. We even have the opportunity to go after another $100,000 - for a total of a half-million dollars - if we can engage in a partnership with two adjacent counties.
So, if you know someone who can help the DSDA and the City Campus bring additional resources to the table, get in touch with us. Give City Manager Frank Parker a call at City Hall, at (912) 764-5468, and let him know you support council's efforts to bring this facility and job growth into the heart of our downtown. If you see state Rep. Jan Tankersley, R-Brooklet, around town, ask for her to support. When you see state Sen. Jack Hill (who seems to be in Statesboro almost as much as his home, Reidsville), tell him you'd love to see state grant monies spent for job creation in our area. Mention the DSDA grant and City Campus when you see Reps. Jon Burns, R-Newington, or Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro. And, when you see him on campus or around town, tell University Vice President and point-man Charles Patterson that Georgia Southern is a vital partner in our efforts - and that anything he can do to ensure the success of the grant writing process will be greatly appreciated by the entire community.
And by all means, if someone from the state calls and ask your opinion on the City Campus grant - tell 'em you're behind it 100 percent.
In the meantime, if you find yourself downtown, stop by the City Campus, visit with the staff and find out more about the exciting work being done and plans being made. Then you can say you were there on the ground floor for something that will one day become a crown jewel in our community.
Phil Boyum is the Statesboro City Councilman for District 1. He can be reached at (912) 495-8820 or at email@example.com.