MILLEDGEVILLE — A business incubator concept grew legs this week.
Georgia College Associate Professor of Marketing Dr. Renee Fontenot presented Milledgeville City Council with a Shaw Building repurposing proposal in Tuesday’s work session. The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Community Business & Arts Development Center would provide a shared space for a wide range of activities allowing for inspiration, incubation and growth activities fostering the development of community economic potential, according to the proposal’s mission statement.
Fontenot said the public/private partnership could keep graduating students in the community, as well as put idle hands to work.
“We’ve been hit hard, and we need to find something from within to help grow those jobs,” the GC professor said. “We have idle human capital. We have individuals who we could put to work if they had the opportunities.”
The “Center” has support from various local development authorities, the three colleges and business owners. Area resident David Sinclair, who assists the Central State Hospital redevelopment efforts, said he is on board.
As acting chairman for Fox Holdings, a private offshore private property holding and development group, Sinclair wants to enter a joint venture with the City of Milledgeville to repurpose the city-owned Shaw asset.
Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley likes the concept.
“This is the type of idea that we need to embrace regardless of where it is,” the mayor said. “This is an asset we were fortunate to have been given.”
Fontenot said the 93,000 square foot facility’s Wayne Street location rests within major corridors making the building easily accessible.
The proposal outlines nine primary services housed at the Center such as:
• The Milledgeville Players
• a convention center
• manufacturing facilities
• a production kitchen
• art studio
• office space
• a tech hub
• classrooms, conference Room, and a library
Exciting areas like the tech hub provide savvy students usable space. Many local college students already create mobile applications.
“Those apps are a hot item right now,” Fontenot said. “There’s no reason we couldn’t give them space to develop those ideas and share that brainpower to move forward.”
Kidsville would foster the idea that children could become entrepreneurs. Also, the art studio could boost Milledgeville’s attractiveness to retirees and others looking to relocate.
“We could become a recognized art community,” she said.
The Center’s featured showroom provides a place to sell products produced with “Made in Milledgeville” co-branding. Potential revenue streams include rent collection, marketing fees and sales percentages.
Solar Zones, LLC needs 10,000 square feet for solar panel production, and along with the Milledgeville Players is ready to move. Sinclair said Central Georgia Technical College officials have expressed interest in creating an automobile restoration facility at Shaw also.
John Geist spoke Tuesday on behalf of the Milledgeville Players, who are committed to building a 200- to 250-seat theater costing nearly $200,000.
“That’s on us,” Geist said. “We need to go to work.”
Considering 25 business incubators currently operate statewide, the proposal uses established models for success. A similar Carrollton facility raised more than $30 million worth of private equity since 2006.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to achieve what others have achieved,” Sinclair said. “All we have to do is be copycats but with our own special Milledgeville ingredients.”
The possible Center layout sketch isn’t set for good. Geist said the city couldn’t look at this building “as an X million dollar deal.”
“We will do it on a phase development, so it doesn’t hurt Fox or the city’s bank book,” Sinclair said.
Fontenot said community partners are willing to share resources to fill the Shaw Building space.
“Through this we would be able to leverage one of our greatest industries, which is education,” the GC professor said Tuesday.
Geist said the Shaw repurposing asks for community, city and county government partnerships.
Click here to subscribe to The Union-Recorder print edition. http://tinyurl.com/6qdm4oj
Click here to subscribe to The Union-Recorder e-edition and view this full article. http://unionrecorder.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx