The Sandy Springs Technology and Innovation Center, a long-planned effort from the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce to boost tech start-up businesses and attract corporations, will open in early 2017 in the Northpark Town Center towers, according to a press release.
“The Innovation and Technology Center will visibly demonstrate Sandy Springs’ commitment to the technology industry,” Chamber chairman Lever Stewart said in the press release. “We want these companies, both established and start-ups, to think of Sandy Springs as the ideal location for their businesses.”
The 3,700-square-foot center will be a nonprofit managed by the Chamber. The center’s own start-up funds, to the tune of $50,000, came from the Sandy Springs Development Authority, which approved a request in August. The authority is an independent economic development nonprofit with members appointed by the mayor, but is not a city department. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said the city is “supportive” of the center’s concept, but will not be involved in its funding or operations.
In an interview, Stewart said the Chamber intends for the center to be self-funding via memberships and corporate sponsorships. Several corporations are in talks for sponsorship deals, though none have been finalized, he said.
In May, the Chamber announced it was working on the idea of a technology center that could be a temporary home for start-up tech companies as well as a space for educational seminars and a general marketing tool to attract businesses. The concept was based on the Alpharetta Innovation Center, which opened last year.
The center has a variety of intended uses, according to the release, which calls the site “a gathering place for collaboration, research and social events…[that will] provide an out-of-the-office location for local employees to work, as well as innovators seeking to create start-up companies.”
Stewart, in the interview, elaborated on the concept and said that the exact ways these intended uses play out are still in development. One intent is to offer monthly memberships that individuals entrepreneurs could buy to use workspace in the facility. Other ideas are to educate people about how to start up a tech business and to promote Sandy Springs as a good place to open or relocate a technology company.
One education element is essentially offering a written list of instructions for looking up internet information, possibly with volunteers–or, down the road, paid staff members–offering assistance. “You literally have available in the innovation center instructions for how to go online…and find information you need,” Stewart said. The facility also could hold seminars or other training sessions.
There are currently no plans for the center to have its own director, though that could be possible depending on funding later, Stewart said. The Chamber has been working with a former technology executive in organizing the center, Stewart said. He declined to identify that executive.
Exactly how the center will showcase Sandy Springs as a tech-friendly city also remains to be seen, based partly on what major corporations may get involved. Stewart likened it to a “marketing booth” that may have some type of exhibit, as well as a “neutral ground” where representatives of major tech companies can meet and exchange ideas. In part, the idea is that center’s existence is a sort of advertisement.
“I think it is accurate to say it’s a physical manifestation to demonstrate the attributes that Sandy Springs can provide in the way of innovation and technology,” Stewart said.
The Sandy Springs center aims to open in January or February, though there is “no absolute commitment” to that timeframe, Stewart said. The Northpark space at Abernathy and Peachtree-Dunwoody roads is being rented to the Chamber by Cousins Properties at a “below market rate,” the release quotes Chamber president Tom Mahaffey as saying.
Sandy Springs has at least one start-up-oriented workspace-rental business, Roam, which is a Chamber member. Asked about the center possibly competing with local businesses, Stewart said that is not a concern because “we view our idea as being unique” with a mix of uses that no for-profit workspace has.
Businesses interested in getting involved with the center can contact Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-386-0126 or Mahaffey at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with more information from Stewart, including a correction of the original press release to clarify that the Development Authority, not the city, is partnering with the center.