University Economic Development Association

Awards Session: Place + Innovation

Georgia Southern University Business Innovation Group – Innovation Incubator (I2)

Speakers: Suzanne Hallman – Assistant Director of Entrepreneurship Education, Georgia Southern Business Innovation Group (BIG)


The original vision for the downtown City Center began in 2011 with the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority (DSDA) and the College of Business Administration contemplating ideas of how to give Georgia Southern University a footprint downtown. What began as the E-zone coworking and collaboration space for entrepreneurs evolved just one year later as community leaders at an annual retreat discussed the development of the Innovation Incubator (I2) and Digital Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) in downtown Statesboro.

To help with the development of processes and programs for I2, BIG first started the virtual incubator, Georgia’s Enterprise Network for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GENIE). GENIE used NAICS funds to connect entrepreneurs and innovators in a handful of rural communities to resources at the university.

The Innovation Incubator (I2) officially opened in August 2016 with the help of funding from the Economic Development Administration in partnership with the City of Statesboro, who owns the buildings, and Georgia Southern University who manages the space and programming. The Business Innovation Group (BIG) was formed in 2014 by combining the business outreach arms of the university under one roof to be a one-stop-shop for business resources in Downtown Statesboro just steps away from City Hall.

BIG is also already managing a second I2 location in Metter, GA for agribusinesses, as well as working on a location in Hinesville, GA for military families and another in Savannah, GA for innovations in logistics technology.

Learn more about this project here.

University of Georgia – Georgia Broadband Map

Speakers:  Eric McRae – Associate Director; Carl Vinson Institute of Government

Georgia knew it had a problem with broadband. But it didn’t know the depth of its problem. It didn’t know exactly where the problem was or exactly who faced it. Federal maps told one story of access and availability, defining a block as “served” if any one location in the block had access. Leaders doubted their accuracy.

With the help of the University of Georgia, the state developed a new methodology for measuring access. Recognizing the potential to leave far too many Georgians behind, the university’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government set out to develop a measurement that would be more granular, inclusive, and ultimately more accurate.

The Institute’s methodology deemed a block as served if 80 percent or more of the locations within it had access. The Institute then mapped every location in Georgia and weighed it against where internet service providers offered availability. The result was the Georgia Broadband Map.

The map highlighted more than 1 million unserved Georgians – including more than 255,000 locations the FCC previously had defined as served. That’s hundreds of thousands of businesses and homes sitting in the gap without service.

The Georgia Broadband Map was groundbreaking. It was the first of its kind in the United States, and it enabled both leaders and providers to distinguish the locations that most needed access. It did far more than shed light on the underserved. The map highlighted inequities. It brought attention, and with attention, it brought funds to help those who needed it most.

Learn more about this project here.

University of Missouri, Kansas City – Building Bridges for Just-In-Time Small Business Support

Speakers:  Jenny Miller – Senior Director of Ecosystem Development

Entrepreneurs and small business owners often rely on their networks for their first customers, capital and business support. Access to resources that provide financing, education and connections are key for small business successes. However, access to those resources is disproportionate business owners from socially and economically distressed communities. To help fill this gap, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center developed an initiative to build bridges between a network of 240+ business-building resources and business owners from socially and economically distressed communities.

Building Bridges for Just-In-Time Small Business Support sought to improve the knowledge of business-building resources among socially and economically distressed groups, build a “trust community” to link distressed groups to local business development resources and increase the number of individuals from socially and economically distressed communities who seek assistance from business development organizations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, UMKCIC was able to build upon the success of the initiative to increase access and support for business owners from socially and economically distressed communities.

Since 2018, this initiative has supported 67 business owners to increase sales, 25 reported increased employees and 269 people reported starting a business.

Learn more about this project here.

Wichita State University – FTRC and MRO Mod Facility

Speakers:  Debra Franklin – AVP Strategic Initiatives, Wichita State University

This Flight Test Research Center and Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Modification Facility at Wichita State University National Institute for Aviation Research is a public sector asset that will enable defense and private-sector commercial manufacturers to adopt new materials and technologies faster and at a lower cost increasing their competitiveness, safety, efficacy, and profitability in global markets, while simultaneously driving research and providing experiential learning opportunities for technicians and engineering students.

The university based FTRC and MRO Mod Facility will be a shared national asset (industrial commons) that is anticipated to create 500 high-income aviation jobs over the first seven years of operation and will drive the innovation and advancement of technologies critical to future American aerospace competitiveness. Aviation jobs will include engineering, technician, aircraft flight operations and certification, and/or production jobs for aircraft manufacturing utilizing technologies associated with project such as Non-Destructive Inspection (NDI), composite materials, thermoplastics, automation, sensors, business operations, etc.

Learn more about this project here.

October 1 @ 12:00
12:00 — 12:45 (45′)