Fayetteville State University is looking forward to the stimulation of the local economy through the upcoming opening of a new innovation and entrepreneurship hub! Get the story from Ivey Schofield at The Fayetteville Observer below.

Fayetteville State University (Photo Credit: Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer)

At least 30 new jobs or businesses within two years. That’s the goal of Fayetteville State University for its new innovation and entrepreneurship hub, scheduled to open in the fall.

FSU Chancellor Darrell Allison said on Monday during the Fayetteville City Council meeting that this mission was personal to him. “Stuff like this is very much needed,” he said. “What better time than now?”

The hub will offer open workspaces for students and community members, conference rooms, technology like laptops and 3D printers, faculty consultations, business skills workshops, entrepreneurial summits and experiential learning opportunities for students.

Allison called it “a one-stop shop” and said that it will be “buzzing with business opportunity.”

The innovation and entrepreneurship hub will be in a 6,500 square foot building that previously housed the university’s bookstore within the Bronco Square Commercial Development, which totals 32,000 square feet.

Allison also cited a recent report that said Fayetteville had the highest number of Black businesses in the United States.

“In the paper, we can read it, but it’s important for our community to feel it: that we’re number one,” he said.

Growing equity

Cumberland County has other entities that help businesses, including the Center for Economic Empowerment and Development (CEED), Fayetteville Technical Community College and FCEDC, according to Robert Van Geons, president of the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation, in an interview Thursday.

However, the hub at FSU will be unique, consolidating different services to assist new businesses and providing extra support to people of color. “There isn’t anything quite like this,” Van Geons said.

Van Geons said the emphasis on supporting people of color was especially important because, “The minority business community, especially the Black business community, has faced historic challenges in growing equity.”

Van Geons cited a report that stated Fayetteville children born into poverty had a high likelihood of becoming poorer as adults.

“If we can help people create businesses or grow businesses,” he said, “the equity can transform lives.”

Van Geons added that the FSU hub could form a conduit into the services FCEDC provides, including finding a bigger location and applying for grants.

“For an economy to be vibrant, it has to be diverse just like a community,” he said. “If we build a diverse and vibrant community and economy, that not only retains talent but also attracts talent.”

The finances behind it all

To establish the entrepreneurship hub, FSU has already allocated $600,000 to repurpose the space, and GoldenLEAF Foundation has provided $200,000, according to city documents.

Now, the university is asking to partner with the city and county to help cover the rest of the cost, which is estimated to total $1.7 million.

During an April 14 meeting, Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Chair Glenn Adams said that $250,000 was “a small investment for what we’re going to be able to do for this entire community.”

The county commissioners did not vote on allocating the money during that meeting.

On May 2, the Fayetteville City Council unanimously gave FSU $250,000 for the project.

Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram said she was “all hands in” for the idea. “We are finally delivering on behalf of our small businesses,” she said.

Mayor Mitch Colvin said that the City Council was always looking for partnerships. “We look forward to working with you,” he told Allison.