Georgia Tech EDA University Center Study Leads to Federal Grant for Valdosta Business Incubator

Downtown Valdosta

Valdosta, Georgia.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce to fund the construction of a new business incubator in that South Georgia community. The EDA grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $1.7 million in local funds.

 

It is expected to help create up to 81 jobs and generate $9.7 million in private investment.

 

“The Trump Administration is committed to the resilience of local economies by encouraging companies to grow in designated opportunity zones,” Ross said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing how the new Valdosta Area Business Incubator will help a wide variety of businesses prosper in the region.”

 

The announcement follows a four-month analysis conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center in 2015 and 2016.

 

Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, these university centers marshal the resources found in colleges and universities to support regional economic development strategies in areas facing chronic and acute economic distress.

 

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce contracted with Tech’s EDA University Center to conduct a community readiness assessment as the first step in pursuing its goal of a sustainable business incubation program. The chamber paid for a portion of the analysis and the Georgia Tech EDA University Center covered the remainder.

 

Business incubation provides entrepreneurs with an array of targeted business support resources and services in an effort to accelerate the successful development of startup companies.

 

But the development of a business incubation program requires a detailed plan of action that identifies the critical resources needed for success, provides a blueprint for its management, staffing, and how it will be funded and operated.

 

During the October 2015 – January 2016 timeframe, the Georgia Tech team conducted primary and secondary research to address three core areas of incubation strategy development: entrepreneurship and innovation, community and stakeholder support and resources and capabilities.

 

“We concluded that there was a demand and justification for a business incubation program and that the community should move forward with plans to develop it,” said Juli Golemi, senior project manager with Tech’s EDA University Center. “We provided the chamber with an analysis of the state of the ecosystem and identified several strategic initiatives for the organization to pursue to develop it.”

 

Golemi and her team identified 19 components, including strong and increasing entrepreneurial activity, existing infrastructure, academic institutions, and Moody Air Force Base, that made the idea a viable one.

 

The U.S. Commerce Department’s funding announcement covers a designated Opportunity Zone, as designated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically-distressed communities nationwide.

 

The project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC). EDA funds the SGRC to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

 

Georgia Tech has been an EDA award recipient since the program’s inception in the 1980s — the only institute of higher learning with that distinction.

 

Tech’s EDA University Center’s mission is to support and lead activities designed to promote job creation, the development of high-skilled regional talent pools, business expansion in innovation clusters, and to create and nurture regional economic ecosystems in Georgia. In addition, the center conducts technology-related economic and policy research that will enhance Georgia’s competitive position.

 

In fiscal year 2019, Tech’s EDA University Center’s work helped save or create 38 jobs and led to private sector investment of $5.8 million in Georgia.

 

The Georgia Tech EDA University Center is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), which is Tech’s economic development and outreach arm.

Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership recruiting companies to participate in new energy management improvement program

Federal award supports targeted focus on energy management system implementation and improvements for manufacturers in six southern states.

 

Randy Green, GaMEP project manager in the Energy and Sustainability Group, performs an energy audit with one of his clients in Emanuel County in Georgia.

Randy Green, GaMEP project manager in the Energy and Sustainability Group, performs an energy audit with one of his clients in Emanuel County in Georgia.

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech has launched a new program to help manufacturers boost their competitiveness by implementing energy management best practices in ISO 50001.

 

A 12-month effort, the Southeast MEP Energy Management Program is being funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

 

“The program aims to help companies in the Southeast accelerate their energy and cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating best practices as outlined by ISO 50001,” said Bill Meffert, the GaMEP’s group manager for energy and sustainability projects.

The ISO 50001 Energy Management System — an international standard in which the GaMEP had a role in developing when first drafted in 2011 and its 2018 revisions — provides business and industry with an energy performance improvement framework.

“That’s the focus of the ISO 50001 training and coaching. We’re assisting companies in their efforts to bring energy costs under control and make smart energy usage part of their daily processes,” Meffert said.

 

Participants in the Southeast MEP Energy Management Program will take a series of classes and webinar sessions, and receive on-site coaching over a 12-month period. Completing the program allows them to be certified by the U.S. Department of Energy as 50001 Ready by showing they’ve implemented the standard into their operations. They can also take an additional step to become certified, Meffert said.

The class for the first cohort launches in early 2019 and applications are being accepted at this link: https://gamep.org/southeast-energy-management-program/.

 

The federal grant covers most of the cost for the training, but participating companies will pay about 25 percent of that. As part of the grant, the GaMEP will partner with MEPs in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Texas. Those sister MEPs will find clients in those states to work with them to implement the ISO 50001 management system.

“For many companies, energy use is a critical component of their ability to maintain a competitive edge,” Meffert said.

 

A medium- to large-sized company with 250 employees or more could spend more than $1 million a year on energy, including electricity, natural gas, fuel, and water.

 

“What we see with the companies that we’ve worked with to adopt the ISO standard in the past is that they achieve energy performance improvements that go beyond the typical approaches,” he said. “Roughly 70 percent of the savings achieved are through operational controls and behavior change.”

 

Since the ISO standard’s adoption in 2011, the GaMEP has helped more than 70 facilities in North America to implement ISO 50001, with most becoming certified, including nine in the Southeast.

 

“This energy management system is applicable to a whole host of industries from textiles and floor coverings to food and beverage to automotive manufacturing,” Meffert said. “One of the reasons we sought to get more companies in the Southeast to adopt this energy standard is because we have such a strong manufacturing presence in all of these sectors.

 

“Incorporating these standards and changing processes for energy usage can really make a difference to the bottom line, while also helping companies meet their competitiveness and sustainability objectives,” Meffert said.

 

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is an economic development program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GaMEP is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With offices in 10 regions across the state, the GaMEP has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. It offers a solution-based approach to manufacturers through coaching and education designed to increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line cost. For more information, please visit gamep.org.