Business Incubator Coming to Atlanta's Predominately Black Neighborhood

Written by The Atlanta Voice

The first business incubator is coming to the southside of Atlanta

The federal office of Economic Development Administration (EDA) joined with the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) (Jan. 12)  to announce a new partnership with the Center which will eventually provide space and facility for “more than 100 emerging entrepreneurial companies” in the metro Atlanta area.

A division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the EDA that has been tasked with supporting and securing economic development by promoting innovation and competitiveness in various otherwise disadvantaged communities across the nation. As part of its partnership in this endeavor, the EDA invested $3 million to “stimulate economic growth and opportunity in the greater Atlanta area.”

H.J. Russell & Company provided the location for the RCIE. H.J. Russell & Company has a long history in the building and construction of the Atlanta we know today. Since its founding over 60 years ago by Herman J. Russell, it has become the largest minority-owned real estate and construction company in United States. The RCIE, founded by H.J. Russell’s family, plans to include an homage to his legacy in the building’s renovations.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell had nothing but praised for the project.

 “As I think of the many construction professionals, the developers who got their start here, the folks who are involved in the financial industry got their start right here, under the leadership and tutelage of Herman Russell, it’s really a pleasure to be here,” Mitchell said.

“I am excited about the work that will be done here, added the mayoral candidate. “This center will be able to help someone who has an idea, and incubate that idea into something that is a reality. And not only a reality that will create just personal opportunity for them and their family and personal prosperity, but really change this community.”

The RCIE is designed to be an anchor institution that will be the catalyst for new start-ups and small growing businesses in need of facility support. It will serve as “a collaborative, co-working ecosystem that connects a customized curriculum, corporate experience and venture capital assets with Atlanta’s top talent from communities of color and other underrepresented communities. This mission is consistent with the policies of the EDA. The EDA’s $3 million investment is designated to not only stimulate economic growth in the Atlanta area, it’s also to help facilitate partnerships with other federal government institutions and local leaders to deliver comprehensive economic development.

“We want to use our network and support systems that we have and bring all of those thriving entrepreneurs together and we want to aggregate our influence and build entrepreneurs,” H. Jerome Russell, co-founder of RCIE, said. “We basically want to recreate the spirit that is in this building, around, what we have built on.”

Added Russell, “We are going to be doing this through partnerships. We are going to be working with the universities systems here. We are uniquely positioned here in Atlanta where we have thousands, 50-60 thousand undergraduates and graduate students within a one-mile radius…. It’s taken awhile but it’s going to happen in 2017.”

Local business owner Alison Cross is enthusiastic about the center, “This center has the opportunity to bring a lot of energy together that already exists here so that people can really make the move that we see possible. Atlanta has all of the resources to be a number one city in the U.S.

It’s just getting all of the people in the right rooms, the connections and the partnerships that can be made to make it all work together. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum and no one person can make innovation happen.”

The renovation of the RCIE building is an ongoing project that will be built out in phases through 2017 and 2018. The RCIE is housed in the former headquarters of H.J. Russell & Company at 504 Fair Street across the street from Paschal’s Hotel and Restaurant near downtown Atlanta.

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