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  • Wilson Roberts | Staff Writer

Milledgeville Business Incubator program to debut in 2019


“Stagnant.”

That’s the word State Rep. Rusty Kidd, I-Milledgeville, used to describe the state of Milledgeville’s economy in fall of 2017.

Kidd is a Milledgeville native and son of former Rep. Culver Kidd, who also used his position as a legislator to promote Milledgeville’s economy.

However, Kidd’s worry for the economy may soon be over.

Angie Martin, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Milledgeville, has teamed up with Stephen Houser, the director of the Twin Lakes Library in Milledgeville, to work on a solution to promote businesses and keep college graduates in Milledgeville.

“Stephen and I are currently working on a project known as the Business Incubator,” Martin said. “The Business Incubator is going to be a program that helps upcoming small businesses and entrepreneurs in Milledgeville.”

One way the project achieves the goal of helping small businesses is by assisting in legal issues, such as licensing, connecting them to resources and improving their efficiency, as well as providing the businesses selected with a reduced rent rate and infrastructure, like high-speed internet, for their business.

“Over a two-year period, a business selected for the program will have the space to rent,” Houser explained. “The rent rate will be reduced, and each month will increase a bit until, after two years, it will be a competitive price. After the two years, businesses move on from the space, and a new one comes in.”

The project was funded by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia after Houser applied for a grant.

The Business Incubator is meant to get businesses that would give benefits to workers a higher chance to succeed, Martin said.

“The new service industry jobs like the incoming Panda Express and Krispy Kreme will only have three to four full-time managers that receive benefits,” Martin explained. “Most of the jobs they will provide are part-time, and that is not what Milledgeville needs. Milledgeville is already a regional retail, shopping and eating destination for the five surrounding counties. The retail jobs will stay, but those are not the ones we want. We want full-time work with benefits.”

The Business Incubator is not solely focused on businesses, however. It is also meant to help the community of Milledgeville as a whole.

“While the incubator space is solely for businesses, we will also have classes to help the broader community,” Martin said. “The classes are aimed at 16 to 25-year-old people who are unemployed or dropped out of school.

Cooperating with Central Georgia Technical College, we will have an 18-month development program which will end with a degree in one of three options: welding, mechanical engineering or electrical engineering.”

The degrees were chosen for the job opportunities after graduating.

The application is not currently available but will be as soon as the renovations are complete.

“Not many people know about the incubator yet since we haven’t released any announcements on it,” Houser said.

“We are planning to release more information closer to the opening of the incubator space, and that is when the application will be available.”

The application is currently being compiled by Houser, Martin and others, with support from incubator programs in Kentucky and Florida.

“We are talking to other incubator programs, like the one in Tallahassee,” Houser said. “We are asking them what questions and what requirements worked best for them. We want this to be as good and polished as possible when it opens, since we think our goals are very easily achieved.”

The goals Houser and Martin set for themselves for the first year of the Business Incubator are having a business take the space within the first six months, training twenty people within the first year, and having two startup businesses use the incubator.

Martin said he agrees and thinks taking their time to make it as perfect they can is the way to succeed.

“The Business Incubator has the potential to grow into something really big since we already have the infrastructure for it to grow, and we kind of need it to,” Martin explained. “Our largest industry is education, but since our colleges do not want to grow larger, we can’t rely on them to help save the economy.”

The Business Incubator will be located in the city annex building across from the Twin Lakes library and is planned to launch during the first quarter of 2019.

#ChamberofCommerce

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