Centers of Innovation Help Georgia Businesses Make Right Connections
As a business owner, there are times when you need a little extra help — a question answered that’s out of your field of expertise, a connection made with a new vendor or the formation of a new strategic partnership — but you barely have time to answer the phone, let alone do research and find the answers.
Thankfully for Georgia business owners, the state is providing a wealth of information and expertise through the Georgia Centers of Innovation. The Centers of Innovation act as a network hub for business owners.
“When you run a small business, you’re busy making sure everything is running,” said Steve Justice, executive director for the Centers of Innovation. “You don’t have a week or two to go and research something. That’s what we do every day. Because we’re doing it every day, we see connections. Or if you’re at the point where your business needs to go from talking about something to do it, we can advise you.”
The Georgia Centers of Innovation comprise five centers — aerospace, energy, information technology (IT), logistics and manufacturing. The people who work in those centers came out of those industries, so they speak the language of those industries. That helps them dive deep into a business to discover the best way to meet their needs and the challenges they face.
“This project is focused on companies in the state of Georgia who want [to] create that next product or service that will allow them to grow,” Justice said.
Justice and David Nuckolls, operations and marketing director, visited Augusta for several days in early May to tour the Cyber Center and learn more about the general business atmosphere in the area. The Centers for Innovation have had some contact in Augusta, primarily through theClubhou.se business incubator and the Sumo Robot League.
“But we want to do more here,” Justice said. “We want to learn more about the innovation culture in Augusta and where it’s going.”
The Centers of Innovation work with companies ranging from startups to large corporations.
“But our sweet spot is the small to midsize companies that need help to do that next thing, whatever it is,” Justice said. “It may be a workforce issue of needing people with certain training or retraining their staff, or maybe it’s a business environment issue, or they need to team with other companies to go after bigger contracts.”
But businesses may not even be aware that their answer is in another part of the state. That’s where the Centers of Innovation can connect businesses with each other to create solutions. Their involvement, however, doesn’t end with just a phone call.
“We don’t just throw a website or phone number at them — we get engaged,” Justice said. “We work with them for six months to a year.”
Justice and Nuckolls were particularly interested in the Cyber Center, not just for what it can do for Augusta, but for companies across the state.
Cyber knowledge and connections will be vital to all businesses, even the smallest ones, because virtually every business uses computers, smartphones and other gadgets tied to the internet of things. And because they are often supplying larger companies and are tied into their systems, those large companies want everyone in their supply chain to upgrade their cybersecurity. Being able to access experts at the Cyber Center through the Centers of Innovation will be a boon to all of those businesses.
“The Cyber Center will be a resource for all of Georgia because cyber is important to all businesses,” Justice said. “It’s wonderful for Augusta to have that impact statewide.”
The best part of the Centers of Innovation’s services for many companies is that they are free.
“Just reach out to us,” Justice said. “If your company is having challenges, pick up the phone or send us an email. When you call us, you’re not just getting one area, but you’re getting the whole department.”
That means if you’re a manufacturing company and need help with logistics, or you’re an aerospace company that needs to manufacture a part, the Centers of Innovation can give advice and make connections across the board.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of company you are, we can help,” Justice said. “Economic development is a team sport. We’re looking to do more projects in Augusta.”
To contact the Centers of Innovation, click here or call 404-962-4000.