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Conyers advances with biz incubator

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS -- The city of Conyers is slowly moving forward with plans to establish a business incubator.

Mayor Randy Mills announced in September plans for a business incubator to be established after Acuity Brands donated a building and 42 acres to the city in 2009.

"We've been plodding along on this for two years," Mills said. "When you gift or turn over property to a government agency, there has to be due diligence on both sides. That's what's taking time. It's a lot of property. It's taking a lot of time to get it looked at."

The building is being reviewed by environmental agencies to make sure it has "a clean bill of health," according to Mills. Establishing a physical facility is part of phase one of establishing the incubator.

"The way we were envisioning this, once the physical facility is in place, we would move the college in place," Mills said. "Then phase two is to move the economic developers in place. Then phase three would be get the incubator started. We felt we needed a college in place because the college is very important."

Mills said after reviewing successful incubators, the committee overseeing it decided successful incubators had three characteristics -- a college/technical school tie-in, a strong economic development and financial stability.

"A lot of incubators go in business and they do not have an educational arm or an economic development. We feel without those two, you're basically throwing people in there and seeing if they sink or swim," he said. "It's more of a methodical process, but we want to make sure this is successful. I'd rather go slow and make sure all the arms are in place."

Of the 25 business incubators in Georgia, 15 have a tie to a college or technical school, according to georgia.org. There is a college partner that is interested in working with the incubator in Conyers despite the slow progress, Mills said.

Mills is also confident in the Rockdale Conyers economic development council, calling it "incredible." He said the council has been successful in bringing businesses to Rockdale/Conyers. The business incubator would provide the opportunity for Conyers and Rockdale County to develop local businesses.

"What we're missing is homegrown development," Mills said. "That's the third leg of this stool. We're trying to do, but can't really do. Bring in this idea that needs support and push it along to be successful."

Right now, there is no timetable for the completion of the incubator, and Mills emphasized the importance of setting up a good foundation for the incubator.

"We haven't given up on it. It's just taking time," he said. "We want it right on the front end. The plan is a good plan, it's a viable plan. Once it's in place, I think it's going to be a game changer."