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Conyers unveils plans for new business incubator

Conyers may soon become a hub for entrepreneurs and manufacturing innovation in the state.

Mayor Randy Millls described the upcoming creation of a business incubator in Conyers, using a donation of more than 50,000 square feet of office and warehouse space by Acuity Brands Lighting to the city, during the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce's annual Leadership Breakfast today.

"This is something positive and upbeat this community needs. This will be bigger than the Olympics coming to Conyers in '96, if we can get all the pieces in place," said Mills.

The incubator would not only provide office and warehouse space cheaply to new startup businesses, but would also offer entrepreneurs guidance from business and industry experts and the chance to work near other complimentary businesses and entrepreneurs for a "cross-pollination" of ideas, said Mills.

While there are several business incubators throughout the state - including with Georgia Tech in Atlanta, with UGA, with Lanier Tech in Gainesville - the incubator in Conyers would have one of the largest facilities and be able to offer manufacturing space.

The Acuity Brands Lighting donation of 42 acres and 500,000 square feet of structure space includes 50,000 square feet of ready-to-go office space.

"All the (incubator) facilities we've visited, from Birmingham to Gainesville to Orlando, the biggest nut to crack was the facility cost," said Mills. "It's the single largest gift the city has ever received. We obviously can't thank (Acuity) enough."

The facility, located off Rockdale Industrial Boulevard, was formerly the corporate office for Lithonia Lighting. The employees working there will be transferred to other facilities nearby. The transfer of the facility to the city is estimated to occur around November.

Mills said leaders with the city, Economic Development Council, and Acuity had been working on the idea for a year or so.

An incubator would not only give fledgling new businesses a boost, it would also put them through a rigorous process of scrutiny.

"The stats are really compelling," said Conyers Councilman Marty Jones. "If someone goes through the incubator process, their success rate is four, five times higher than if they don't."

An incubator was an extension of some things already done on a smaller scale with the Downtown Development Authority, said Mills. The DDA bought buildings in Olde Town Conyers to rent out to new businesses and helped facilitate grants for businesses.

"We've taken that concept and put it on steroids," said Mills. 

A third party would be operating the incubator, and the plan is to have the involvement of multiple institutions of higher education, such as University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. The city is still in negotiations with the third party, said Mills.

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