In the News

Communiversity on stand by

The former Shaw Building patiently awaits an exciting communiversity rebirth.

While the final lease-purchase contract hasn’t received City of Milledgeville signatures to move forward, leadership behind the conceptual community-based public-private partnership encouraging learning, entrepreneurism and economic development are hard at work.

Georgia College Associate Professor of Marketing Dr. Renée J. Fontenot said organizational action began months ago.

“We’ve been sitting on the edge of our seats with baited anticipation,” Fontenot said. “In working towards that, we have a number of things in place. We are ready to go.”

The board is developing by-laws and most notably, changing the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Communiversity name for branding purposes.

“It’s a mouthful and the acronym gets confusing because there are so many other Milledgeville-Baldwin type of groups,” Fontenot said.

Going forward the project will be known as Summit Communiversity.

“Once we formerly sign the papers with the city, we will begin rebranding everything,” the communiversity board member said.

The National Association of Communiversities (NAC) officially launched Sept. 25, 2013 at Featherbone Communiversity of Gainesville, Ga., according to Gus Whalen, representing the Warren Featherbone Foundation.

The NAC is an affiliation of communiversities that operate independently but have formalized collaborative Declarations of Interdependence. Milledgeville’s Summit Communiversity signed on with four others.

Co-founders of the association are Featherbone, Bonner County Communiversity of Sandpoint, Idaho, Chaffey College of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. and Community Futures Boundary, Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada.

This was good news for the future of a local educational and innovation center. Members share ideas and as a whole can grab more grant funds.

Joining the association is conceptual early planning, according to Fontenot.

Gainesville’s Featherbone Communiversity is the Milledgeville blueprint.

The communiversity board has been working with the NAC “quite closely” since last fall. Fontenot said the NAC looks to add collaborative members.

“Our group will attend the National Association meeting in July up in Sandpoint,” she said. “We expect there will be seven members at that meeting.”

Since May 2013, the City of Milledgeville and Solar Zones, LLC. began public-private negotiations for the repurposing of the old Shaw Building as the communiversity hub.

The city entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), assigning the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority as the Shaw lease conduit Oct. 4 of last year because the city can’t legally lease the building.

Solar Zones Chairman David Sinclair is supposed to lease-purchase the 93,000 square foot building for $450,000. The communiversity will form as a 501(c)(3).

The Development Authority settled initial questions about the MOU and sublease agreement before unanimously approving it in December.

Development Authority Executive Director Matt Poyner said the authority bears no liability, but instead will simply act as a conduit for the transaction.

In December, Poyner said Solar Zones would supply a quarterly capital investment summary to the authority and the city. Dollar points go toward the purchase price as improvements are made basically constituting as the rent.

The proposed lease runs for two years.

Solar Zones is anxious to begin Phase 1 de-industrialization enabling work at Shaw.

Projected at three months this includes removal of major ceiling ductwork previously installed for Shaw manufacturing, roof cooling towers and other equipment.

Sinclair wants Shaw as energy efficient as possible by installing a 1-megawatt solar panel system on the cleared roof later in the process.

The Shaw Building’s 93,000 square feet could harbor a convention center, manufacturing facilities, classrooms, business incubation space, art studio and tech hub to name a few proposals.

Committed parties include the Milledgeville Players, the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority, Central Georgia Technical College, the Baldwin Investment group and Perpetual Motion, LLC. The Players and Perpetual Motion already have significant funds allotted for the venture project.

Fontenot said more organizations want in.

Another option might utilize college talent. Fontenot said the winner of an upcoming middle Georgia six-school student business plan competition featuring Georgia College and the College Hill Alliance would award $10,000 to the winners.

“I’m hoping it’s one of ours to implement here in Milledgeville. If that is the case and it’s an appropriate plan, we are willing to allow space in the communiversity for them to get started,” she said.

Source: Union Recorder