New Vidalia IT center hopes to recruit local businesses for incubator

Published 11:35 pm Saturday, June 24, 2017


VIDALIA — Vidalia officials hope to begin recruitment efforts at the Jack H. McLemore Jr. Technology Center by the end of summer.

The $1.2 million center named after the longtime town attorney will be part business incubator and part technology center, as it will be the heart of the town’s fiber optic high-speed Internet system.

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“I do feel an increase of Internet capacity will be beneficial to our area as a whole,” Concordia Parish Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone said. “There are many existing businesses that need more reliability and more capacity to fulfill the obligations of their business.  I also feel we will have an increased opportunity to grow e-commerce in our area due to the increase in capacity and reliability.”

Malone and Vidalia Marketing Director Hannah Junkin are in the planning stages of the business incubator program but hope to begin recruiting potential businesses by the end of the summer, Malone said.

“I think the business incubator will offer a resource to entrepreneurs who are not quite ready to quit their day jobs, but want to explore their business ideas,” she said. “That’s who we are targeting.  We can help guide and grow their business ideas to a point where they can go out on their own and be successful.”

An advisory committee formed from business leaders in the area will help business incubator occupants.

“A member of the incubator will be required to meet with the advisory committee and report their activity to the committee,” she said. “The committee will provide expertise in a variety of areas to help guide them to success.  The member will be encouraged to stay in the incubator until the committee is confident that the business can be successful on its own.”

Entrepreneurs will also be able to form a community with others at the incubator, Malone said.

“This space is a co-working environment geared toward e-commerce and technology related startups,” Malone said. “The space will encourage (tenants) to discuss their business with each other and bounce ideas off of each other.”

The incubator will also work with the Concordia Parish Library, the Concordia Parish Chamber of Commerce, Natchez, Inc., and Alcorn State University.

“We are excited to partner with all of these organizations to assist with small business development,” Malone said.

In the back of the center will be the technology system. Vidalia IT Director Bobby Paul said when complete, the system should enable for faster upload and download speeds for Internet customers.

The fiber system would be available to purchase by residents as well as most businesses.

Nexus Systems would be the service provider, Paul said. Paul said the company has not disclosed what its rates would be.

Paul said he was not sure when the system would be finalized, but he hoped to have his main ring around town completed by the end of the year. Once the ring is built, the next step would be distribution to houses and businesses, though he said some would receive distribution as the ring was being set up.

“The ring is the backbone — everything feeds off of that,” Paul said.

Mayor Buz Craft said in the long run, the center would be beneficial for the town to have.

“There is a lot of commerce going on in our world, and all of it is computer related,” Craft said. “This will offer young entrepreneurs who are really computer literate a chance to start a business.

“And if any business wants to come to town, we can give some of the fastest Internet service speeds available otherwise.”