The Union Recorder

January 31, 2014

Campus Club director seeks project support

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

Campus Club Milledgeville (CCM) owns and has long-term renovation goals for the former Concord Building off Highway 22.

CCM director Greg Barnes asked the Development Authority of Milledgeville and Baldwin County for a vote of support during Monday’s board meeting but is still waiting on an answer.

Barnes sent the authority a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in hopes the economic development group will formerly agree to support CCM outreach goals of business incubation at the old industry complex.

“It’s formal handshake to say I see what you are doing, and I’ll support you all the way up to the point that I’ll give you some money,” he said. “As long as it does not go after your budget and if it has the potential to create jobs, I think you need to start thinking that way.”

The CCM director said the MOU backing from the authority would help a lot in the non-profit and grant arenas.

“Partnership is always important when we begin to talk with people outside of Baldwin County,” Barnes said.

The board didn’t make a formal motion to accept the MOU saying that legal counsel needed more time to review the document.

Attorney Georgia Carpenter Jr. said Monday the submitted document wasn’t “definitive enough project-wise” for agreement.

“I think we need to look at it and have the board discuss this even more,” board chairman Paul Dean said. 

Barnes said CCM has MOU’s with Georgia College, Central Georgia Technical College and the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office among nearly 20 other supporters. The Baldwin County Commissioners supplied a letter of support as well.

“It says that when there’s areas we agree on we partner in those areas to affect the community,” he told the Development Authority board Monday.

Barnes cited the Development Authority’s involvement in the former Shaw Building transaction between Solar Zones, LLC. and the City of Milledgeville as “opening Pandora’s box.” The building tabbed as Summit Communiversity shares similar educational and entrepreneurial goals.

“You can say no and that’s OK with me,” he said. “We are talking about creating a system where everyone gets the same equal treatment.”

Development Authority board members said the City of Milledgeville requested the authority to act as a conduit for the Shaw Building transaction because the municipality couldn’t legally lease the building by itself.

“We don’t have a handshake with Shaw that says we are going to support you, and you support us,” Vice-Chair Chat Daniel said. “That’s an entirely different situation than what you are talking about.”

Authority Executive Director Matt Poyner said the board never signed an MOU for the Shaw situation.

“This deal going on with the city now is still out there. We have never signed an MOU there. We are still working on that document itself,” Carpenter said.

Poyner said the authority owes nothing and has zero liability with any issues between Solar Zones and the city.

The board told Barnes this was a misunderstanding.

“You are trying to set a precedent that we support other incubators that do random things in the future,” board secretary Karen Rowell said.

Barnes said Monday the board was independent and “didn’t have to do” the Shaw deal.

The Campus Club director also said the authority’s lack of set policy in these matters is a “breeding ground for capital cronyism.” He believes the documents support the CCM argument.

“People who know people can get things done. I don’t hang out at the club, but I do have vision and things that can help turn this community around,” he said after the meeting Monday. “To me, those barriers should be alleviated by policy. Everyone keeps talking about unity. Well this is the opportunity to show unity.”

The Arts, Technology and Education Complex (ATEC) would house a “business incubator” project, according to Barnes.

By CCM’s definition, the ATEC facility concepts feature manufacturing and production facilities, technical education, catering, general business offices, a theater, kid zone, dance studio and an early learning center. The complex falls under Campus Club’s Middle Georgia Oconee Center for Social Enterprise outreach to provide innovated economic responses to quality-of-life-barriers in the community.

The nature of the project will “develop, promote and expand industry, commerce and employment opportunities” in Baldwin County, according to the MOU draft.

According to census and demographic research from Barnes, African-American business’s owners have dropped significantly since 1988.

“That’s the No. 1 focus. Not only do we need to create businesses, but we need to look at the system to make sure that whoever wants to be an entrepreneur in Baldwin County has the same opportunity,” Barnes said.

As Milledgeville’s arts and enrichment youth center, CCM is a nonprofit organization that offers youth ages 12 to 18 in the central Georgia area a place to develop their talents in art, music, drama and audio and video production.

“No matter what happens with the board we are going to continue our desire for business incubation for people in this area,” Barnes said Monday. “We believe entrepreneurialism is the way out of poverty.”