Savannah aims to link businesses

It is a notion sorely needed in a state that has hemorrhaged jobs, where the economy has been struggling to rebound partly because firms with few resources are desperate for a little help.

Get companies with good ideas, give them guidance, give them assistance and the results could be dramatic, said Ervin Williams, Entrepreneur in Residence at Savannah State University and chief proponent of the Accelerator.

“We need to jump-start our economy,” he said. “I have been searching for a way we could reach out to a larger number of entrepreneurs and kick-start their company’s growth.”

The organization is still getting off the ground. Unlike a business incubator, in which companies are collected beneath one roof, the Accelerator would save money by offering a virtual cluster — companies linked by technology, rather than proximity. But they could call on each other for support, as well as a large network of business and financial advisers.

Besides, many of the target companies are run out of the entrepreneur’s home with just one employee — the founder.

The Accelerator would be managed by Savannah State’s College of Business Administration, but would also include alliances with other area schools.

By most business standards, the cost would be modest, Williams said. “We will have to have a budget of at least $150,000 to kick this thing off.”

Which doesn’t mean the goals are not ambitious.

Williams wants to pitch the idea across the state, especially in rural areas often overlooked in economic development.

“We think we could have a thousand businesses over Georgia in the next nine months,” he said. “We are on to something really significant, we really are.”

About 15 companies are involved thus far, Williams said, including two in which he has an investment. Among the companies:

● GreenSweep, which would provide energy-efficiency solutions for homes and business.

● Farmer D. Organics, which would provide products and services to help people grow their own food.

● Haberdashery Eco-Fashions, a company that would sell fabric and fashion resources, focused on the Savannah College of Art and Design.

● The Invention Ingen, an Internet-based organization to help inventors turn ideas into profitable businesses.

● The Earth Comfort Co., which will design and install geothermal energy sources.

● 3DRTT, a three-dimensional simulation for clinical radiation therapy.

With unemployment in double digits, job losses continuing and both consumer and company spending anemic, it might seem like a bad time to start projects, but this is actually a time of opportunity when smart entrepreneurs get a toehold on new markets and a leg up on competitors, Williams said. “It’s very important to start your business now, to get ready, because the economy is going to turn up.”

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