Vacancies? They’re signs of success at MTA’s Innovation Center

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Published: May 28,2007

Giving a guided tour through the Mississippi Technology Alliance Innovation Center (MTAIC) in Jackson, executive director DeAnna Adams greets each client with enthusiasm and praises the work they are doing. But, she beams with equal pride over the center’s extensive unoccupied space, a true sign of just how successful the MTAIC has been over its brief history.

“Its typical for incubators to take three or four, maybe even five years to graduate a tenant. In three years, we have already graduated three clients,” Adams said beaming. “The

center has more than met expectations.”

High-tech breeding grounds
The MTAIC was established approximately three years ago to give start-up high-tech companies a running start. The mission of the incubator is “to assist clients in the formation and development of new enterprises and enable them to succeed.”

The services offered by the MTAIC, housed in Jackson State University’s (JSU’s) e-Center on Raymond Road in South Jackson, are numerous. They include: furnished office space; data center access; capital/financing access; shared administrative services; marketing assistance; advisory boards; business planning; mentoring/business coaching; client performance review; and, exit assistance.

The center, encompassing approximately 30,000 square feet, offers clients a facility tailor-made for high-tech enterprises. For instance, cabling runs under the buildings six-inch raised concrete floors. Offering both clean and straight power, the facility’s electrical system provides protection from surges, spikes and brownouts. It also boasts a fiber backbone, Ethernet connection, cable TV (through Time Warner) and Internet connectivity (through JSU) as well as state-of-the-art fire protection.

It currently houses 15 clients. These clients run the gamut, from AbsoCom Corporation, a fixed wireless broadband service provider and high-end communications services integrator, to the Action Leadership Institute, which is a research and think tank organization that initiates position papers, in-service mini-courses, training modules and related policy proposals.

The clients of MTAIC at one time employed a total of approximately 120 workers, but with the recent graduations, the center’s tenants have approximately 70 workers on site.

Two large spaces are vacant at the MTAIC, one once occupied by Integrity Online. It as well as Global Security Systems are the most recent graduates, and are now “on their own.”

A big boost

“The Innovation Center has allowed me to get a technology business started and growing much quicker than I would have been able to do otherwise,” said Steven Dear, CEO of Intelligent Solutions, Ltd. “It has been such a help to cash flow to have affordable office space and access to state-of-the-art resources. It is an ideal place to get a business started. Additionally, the helpfulness and knowledge of the Innovation Center staff makes running a business a more manageable task.”

Dear added that the staff at MTAIC is not the only resource he has found helpful and supportive. “It has been nice getting to know other clients here,” he said. “There is an interesting mix of businesses and skill sets. Some of us are able to do business together. For the ones where there is not currently a need for working together, we can keep each other in mind for referrals to others.”

AbsoCom is a current tenant, but not for much longer. The broadband company is an original client of the MTAIC, and has found plenty of clients, enough to grow itself right out of the MTAIC. Ike Fowler, CEO of AbsoCom, said the company’s success would have been difficult, if not impossible, to attain without the shot in the arm it received from the MTAIC.

Fowler was passionate in his praise for the MTAIC and its staff, particularly Adams, who he said always kept him on his toes and thinking about his company’s future. He said he regretted leaving the MTAIC, but would take the foundation laid there to AbsoCom’s future endeavors.

Yet another client on the verge of “fledgling” is RedLaser Technology Inc. RedLaser offers Internet and Web-related services including Web site development and design, hosting, maintenance, marketing and analysis. It is readying for a move to Ceva Green, a proposed mixed-use development in downtown Jackson where the company will not only have a full-service office, it will also serve the clients of the development.

Another point of pride for Adams is where all of the center’s graduates are going. All have committed to stay in the Jackson/Hinds County area. Like RedLaser, AbsoCom is staying in Jackson, according to Fowler, who said the relationships his company has formed with JSU, local businesses and fellow MTAIC tenants made staying in the Capital City a no-brainer.

Funding is limited at the MTAIC. With the rise in the cost of building materials, the vacant spaces have yet to be reconfigured. But Adams, a native of California and alumna of the University of Southern Mississippi who has called Mississippi home for most of her adult life, said she is not only confident the MTAIC will survive, but thrive, and she believes Jackson could be come the “Incubator Capital” of the state.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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