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Georgia Enterprise Network for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (GENIE)

GENIE – the Georgia Enterprise Network for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – is an initiative of the Business Innovation Group at Georgia Southern University that connects individuals and communities in rural Georgia with the state’s economic development ecosystem and the integrated network of technological, business, and professional resources at Georgia Southern. By linking rural communities with ecosystem resources, GENIE uses modern technology to connect homegrown talent, community organizations, and resident leaders with the expert advice and training they need to reinvigorate local communities and make Georgia the Tech Hub of the East Coast.

WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO

If there is one glaring imbalance uncovered by the response to the COVID pandemic is that our rural cities and communities were woefully unprepared for the rapid and drastic shift to online technology. To address that imbalance, the Business Innovation Group received a supplemental EDA grant to develop a technological solution that creates a network of economic development resources and an ecosystem of collaborative organizations with the goals of business development and the creation of jobs. The original vision was to develop a system over two years and deploy 25 locations by the year 2025.

Each GENIE location consists of three basic components: a Virtual Receptionist kiosk, an interactive conference room, and a presentation center. The Virtual  Receptionist  kiosk  can be located in facilities  of  organizations  that  do not have the  foot traffic  or revenue  stream to support a full-time receptionist. Through the kiosk, new visitors will be able to find information or talk to a virtual receptionist, located at our hub in Statesboro, who can answer basic questions, direct inquiries, and schedule appointments  with BIG staff. Our  interactive  collaboration  rooms are equipped with Internet-enabled whiteboards, motion-activated cameras, and conferencing equipment that will increase the productivity of online meetings and facilitate regional and statewide cooperation. And our presentation centers will allow delivery of BIG’s entrepreneurial programming and virtual learning systems to locations and organizations in rural and underserved communities that may not typically have access to such services.

HOW WILL IT BE DEPLOYED?

The current goal of the Business Innovation Group is to deploy 30 GENIE locations within the next three years. While BIG has developed a model capable of  sustaining  itself, rapid deployment  will reply  on outside  funding  support from grant sources or state agencies to acquire and deploy equipment. Currently, BIG has secured  commitments  from more than 20 locations statewide, including many underserved communities in the state. whose unemployment, poverty, and job loss rates were at or above the state average for these categories. BIG will also connect these communities with higher education institutions, statewide partners, innovation centers, and economic development agencies.

HOW WILL IT BE SUSTAINED?

The GENIE project is integrated into BIG’s standard operations and growing network of business incubators and innovation centers. Long term, the physical locations of GENIE will be funded through a subscription-based technology as a service (TaaS) fee, paid monthly by the host communities. With financial support  and investment  into the technology, BIG can fully install the equipment at each location – at no upfront cost to the community. Once all locations are fully operational, BIG expects GENIE will be a completely sustainable project that generates enough revenue  to  fully  fund ongoing maintenance and improvements.

We are stronger together.

Last updated: 1/26/2022