USA's Coastal Innovation Hub debut draws praise, optimism for diversified economy

Posted on November 7, 2013 by Andrew Byrd
Andrew Byrd

Mark Weaver data-lightbox='featured'
Mark Weaver at Coastal Innovation Hub Opening

from  MOBILE, Alabama – Committed to growing the technology sector and diversifying the region’s economy, the University of South Alabama’s Coastal Innovation Hub made its official debut Wednesday.

“It will definitely help us to round out our economic development process here,” said Bill Sisson, president and chief executive officer of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, one of dozens of dignitaries and elected officials present for the grand opening ceremonies.

“Cultivating entrepreneurs through incubation is a very futuristic way of approaching economic development, and it will us tremendously to support that homegrown element,” Sisson said.

Tours of the 10,000-square-foot technology-centered business incubator followed the dedication ceremony that included comments from Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson; Mark Weaver, the center’s founder and director; Lynne Chronister, USA’s vice president of research and economic development; David Johnson, USA’s vice president for academic affairs; former Mobile Mayor Mike Dow, executive vice president of CentraLite and chairman of the USA Melton Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s advisory board; and Sisson.

Stimpson told the crowd gathered the technology hub signals a new way of doing business in the city of Mobile.

“Throughout the campaign we talked about being more business friendly,…and that’s about opening doors at City Hall to make processes easier to do business in this city. That’s a pledge and a promise…We will be able to do things at City Hall that will help the business innovators of the business hub,” Stimpson said.

(Click here for more insight from Stimpson.)

Chronister said that spirit of cooperation will be key to the incubator’s projected impact.

“We expect this hub to be a success and a boost for the economic development of the region and the goals of our new mayor,” she said.

“We’re here to support (Stimpson’s) goals for diversifying the economy by providing a nurturing environment…In this resource-rich and supportive environment we’ll be able to provide these companies, the university will be able to promote economic development,” Chronister said.

Specifically, the Coastal Innovation Hub will provide tenant companies with on-site consulting, professional networking opportunities, office and laboratory space, conference rooms and other services, including access to university libraries and student interns.

The hub’s leadership envisions a balanced tenant mix incorporating an array of technology-centered disciplines such as biomedicine, information technology and cybersecurity, some of which will be commercialization efforts of university-generated research, while other startups will have no previous connection to the university.

“It is important as a region we not only focus on recruiting large businesses to the area but also work to cultivate small, technology-focused businesses that will provide high-paying jobs,” said Weaver, who also serves as executive director of the Melton Center and spent two years creating the new venture.

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