Stimulating Business

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$1 Million Grant funds City Campus FabLab and Innovation Incubator

A grant of nearly $1.1 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) will allow Georgia Southern and the City of Statesboro to expand the University’s City Campus on East Main Street. It will help create an Innovation Incubator and an eventual Digital FabLab (short for fabrication laboratory) to stimulate an ecosystem of business innovation and entrepreneurship in southeast Georgia.

The business incubator will offer small businesses and start-up companies in Statesboro and surrounding communities, access to resources and other innovations that will help them grow and compete. The FabLab itself will be a place for people to design, build, test and introduce new products into the marketplace, thereby generating new jobs and advancing the city’s economic development. “If they can dream it, if they can develop a concept, our facility will provide the resources and the support to help entrepreneurs make their product from the ground up,” said Dominique Halaby, director of the Bureau for Business Research and Economic Development (BBRED). “We will work with them to help determine if there is any value in what they’ve created, and we will help them take it to market. We hope this will challenge people to think a little bit outside the box.”

The state-of-the-art facility will include office space, cutting-edge technology like 3D printers for modeling, electronic stations and other equipment and tools to help entrepreneurs construct working prototypes of just about anything they can imagine. The Statesboro FabLab will be among the first in the state of Georgia. Based on a concept by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Neil Gershenfeld as a way to bring low-cost manufacturing to the masses, the FabLab has been replicated at dozens of universities in the United States and in remote regions of the world.

Charles Patterson, Ph.D., vice president for Research and Economic Development at Georgia Southern said numerous University faculty and students are engaged in entrepreneurial activities “creating technologies, devices and inventions which a university of our size and magnitude has the ability to license, patent and protect and spin out into companies.”

The FabLab and Innovation Incubator is a true University-community partnership. With the University’s Research Foundation providing the grant funding, the City of Statesboro is contributing nearly $800,000 in funding to purchase two properties for the FabLab and business incubator. The City Campus expansion, which has a projected total cost of $1.9 million, will house BBRED, the Statesboro office of the Small Business Development Center and the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership. In addition, Halaby said Statesboro agreed to provide $50,000 annually for three years to help cover the ongoing operational expenses.

There will be more student engagement on the expanded City Campus as well. Students will have the opportunity to work with businesses and to participate in classes where they can begin to think differently and let their creativity run wild, Halaby said. “We are very excited to introduce this type of concept in Statesboro,” he added. “This is big on so many levels for Georgia Southern because it also allows us to be multidisciplinary. It is not just about the College of Business Administration. This will provide a platform to bring engineers, scientists and business professionals together more fully. This project demonstrates what we are capable of doing in a small rural area like Statesboro in southeast Georgia.”

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