Two of Atlanta’s educational powerhouses are teaming up with other key stakeholders in the city to connect and grow the Southeast innovation community.
The Southeast Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Growth Hub will be a two-year pilot program to provide critical resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners with minority backgrounds in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The hub will bring together Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), the Morehouse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC), PRENEURology Global and Atlanta’s MBDA Centers.
Funding for the pilot will come from a $1.4 million cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Commerce MBDA.
For Project Director Donna Ennis, the program sets out to create a “connected, blended ecosystem across the Southeast.”
“We know that there are numerous ecosystems focusing on different types of businesses — startups, technology, non-technology, maker spaces, incubators, business assistance programs. But many times, the ecosystems are operating in silos. And so what we have found is that business people and entrepreneurs spent a lot of their time trying to figure out where to get resources,” Ennis told Hypepotamus.
That might look like getting help with business paperwork or finding a patent attorney. Ennis adds that part of breaking down silos is helping students from HBCUs break into technology and innovation.
The Hub will focus on entrepreneurs in Southeast cities and is built based on direct interviews and sessions on the pain points minority-owned businesses face in the Southeast. Ennis says they will measure the pilot’s success based on how many companies are engaged, how many jobs are created, and how many startups secure funding.
ATDC, Georgia Tech’s statewide technology incubator, will host MBDA@ATDC to specifically help bring more diverse entrepreneurs into the technology space. For John Avery, ATDC’s director, the program is a way to bring ATDC’s resources and expertise to a wider audience. “The Hub is designed to enhance the reach of services available to entrepreneurs of color by connecting nodes or services like ours together in a more dynamic way through broader regional connections,” Avery added in a statement.
The MIEC will play a key role in identifying minority-serving institutions (MSIs) across the region.
The partnership is a unique chapter for the Atlanta business and higher education communities. For Ennis, it is a natural extension of her work at Georgia Tech and Atlanta’s MBDA Centers.
“I’ve been doing this work for almost 18 years. When I think about the ability to help an individual company be more effective, more efficient, and more successful…that’s what keeps me going.”
Business owners and entrepreneurs interested in joining the hub are encouraged to get in touch here.