The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week’s blog is from Jerald Mitchell of SEDA Innovations. Read on for Jerald’s insights on how Big Government may be on the verge of helping fuel new businesses in our area…..
The Savannah Economic Development Authority’s primary mission is to create jobs and attract investment in Savannah and Chatham County. For years, we have done that through proactive business development focused on attraction of new businesses and retention and expansion of established companies, mostly industrial in nature.
In 2011, SEDA established the World Trade Center Savannah to help regional businesses grow internationally and to identify more foreign direct investment projects for the region, again, all for the purpose of creating jobs and attracting investment.
In March 2012, SEDA began to further explore and develop a strategy for stronger support of creative talent, technology start-ups and soft landing phase companies in Chatham County and calls that initiative SEDA Innovations
As many know, we have enjoyed ongoing involvement with entrepreneurship and new technology through our support of The Creative Coast. Our renewed engagement has led us to explore more specifically the right strategy for supporting further innovation in Savannah. In that exploration we confirmed the following:
(1) There is tangible deal-flow in the Savannah area that is worth engagement with the business support ecosystem that currently exists and some of that deal flow is worth the pursuit of investment capital.
(2) We’ve seen at least one seed investment funding partner, SLAAM Ventures, come to the area, but there is a lack of capital options for start-ups and/or companies are not prepared for investment.
SEDA has decided it can make the most difference by addressing the lack of capital options and helping to prepare companies for investment. We see an almost immediate opportunity for success related to the goal of attracting capital. That opportunity is directly related to legislation that is currently being discussed in the Georgia General Assembly called House Bill 285. There is also a version of this bill in the State Senate. If passed, this bill or some version of it would allow the State to create what would ultimately be a $100 million seed capital mechanism called the Invest Georgia Fund. While the fund would work for the entire State, it would have a great impact for portions of the State that currently have little or no investment presence and often see good ideas go elsewhere. While we still hope to encourage organic seed investment capital growth and we still hope to attract institutional seed investment capital participation to Savannah, our State leadership’s move in the seed investment capital direction is a positive step and will hopefully provide a benefit to the Savannah start-up community.
The Savannah start-up and new technology community is well positioned for success because we have a very collaborative environment for these companies. That environment is displayed in our community on a daily basis by organizations like The Creative Coast, Thinc Savannah, the Herty Advanced Materials Center, the Technology Association of Georgia, the Small Business Development Center and the Advanced Technology Development Center …and there are others.
Some of you may ask “what about the presence of a tier 1 research university” and that is a great question. While we don’t currently have the benefit of being the home to a tier 1 research university, Georgia Southern comes close and appears to be moving in that direction. In addition, the capacity to surface intellectual property exists with the presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Mercer Medical University, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University, The Georgia Institute of Technology – among others, existing companies in the community and community professionals with the entrepreneurial spirit.
From an innovation and industry standpoint our targets are start-up and soft landing phase start-ups that bring new innovations to the table and are most compatible with our strategic industry sectors; although we will work with all industry sectors in some way or another. In identifying the two main goals of (1) Continuing to surface new companies and (2) Attracting capital supporting and seeing the Invest Georgia legislation pass in any form sends the right message to the start-up community local and outside of the State.
It also helps the Savannah area take that next important step.