By Angie Gheesling
“It is clear that Middle Georgia is within striking distance of becoming a regional hub for innovation. The next steps in the process will be transformational for the region.” ~ The Middle Georgia Innovation Report, 2021
The second report for the Middle Georgia Innovation Project has been published This report has explored research, data and anecdotal evidence on innovation in Middle Georgia, and other similar regions in the United States, from a range of sources. Through the course of this study, a number of ideas have emerged for consideration in Task 3 of this project. The following are suggested approaches that emerged through the research and interviews to help foster innovation in the Middle Georgia region.
Continue to build Start-up Culture and Ecosystem
- A fledgling start-up ecosystem already exists in the region. This could grow to become a ‘go-to’ platform for start-ups or a small business center for information for startups and entrepreneurs.
- Macon Start-Up Week is a great way to build networks for start-ups and entrepreneurs. This could be expanded to sponsor competitions to draw statewide interest and talent.
- Fort Valley State University already is a key resource for innovation centered around agriculture and business. Leveraging the new Center for Agriculture Innovation and Entrepreneurship will be a key step in building the innovation ecosystem in the region.
Build on existing key economic strengths and drivers
- The high-performing Tier I and Tier II industries in the region are already key foundations of innovation support in the region. This strength could be grown by convening industry cluster conversations around sharing information and building partnerships.
- Robins Air Force Base is a well-established driver of innovation in the region. Increasing the base’s presence in ‘off-base’ innovation activities would help to educate local businesses on how to align themselves with the needs of the base.
- A large number of technology companies in the region form a significant building block in the process of becoming a Software Center of Excellence. This group could be used to create a collaborative association of regional IT companies that could work together to create a plan to attract quality cutting-edge talent to the region. The plan could include a branding strategy that portrays Middle Georgia as a ‘go-to’ place for software engineers.
- Middle Georgia’s central location and the significant trucking industry are key elements whose strengths have yet to be leveraged. Explore how to build innovation corridors to other regional centers in the State.
Focus on knowledge creation
- Education is a key building block of the Middle Georgia region. Innovation capacity could be expanded by convening a coalition of educators to develop a K-22 program for STEM education and to provide options for non-degree certifications. This could include a platform for sharing information across university systems and making it accessible to K-12 schools in the region.
Next Steps for this project include the establishment of Working Groups to build out the strategies and action steps of the final innovation roadmap for the Middle Georgia region.