MIC’s Economic Development Summit aims to nurture sustainable businesses in Mableton

a screenshot of the six districts in Mableon, with 1,2,3 to the south, 4, 5, 6 to the north

On September 22, the Mableton Improvement Coalition (MIC) will hold its second Economic Development Summit at the EpiCenter, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $50 per person, and breakfast and lunch will be served.

The EpiCenter is located at 135 Riverside Pkwy, Austell, GA 30168.

The summit has an impressive lineup of panelists.

The Courier conducted a Zoom interview with Dr. Maxine Wilson and Ray Thomas about the summit.

Wilson is Vice Chairwoman of MIC’s Board of Directors, and chairs the Economic Development Committee. Ray Thomas is the President of MIC.

Wilson began by stating that this is the second year of the summit.

“Last year, we had our inaugural summit,” she said. “And we had a pretty good turnout and very good feedback, including some questions that this year we will provide responses to.”

She said that last year’s summit was focused on development in the 30126 area code, and that in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic there were concerns about workforce development and building back businesses.

“And this year, we decided to expand it to the boundaries of the city of Mableton, not just to the 30126 zip code,” Wilson said. “So we have a wider target.”

“We have more businesses we’re looking to give information to this year and to give access and resources to,” she said. “So the focus of the summit is to look at a business ecosystem across Mableton.”

“Not just to give people information, but to give people access to the people who have the resources and to give them information about areas that otherwise they wouldn’t have looked into,” Wilson said.

She said a panelist from Kaiser Permanente would talk about how businesses can get contracts.

“Our title sponsor is Kaiser Permanente, and one of the things the panelist from Kaiser will talk about is the fact that there are diverse opportunities to get on contract and strategic alignments, and to show people how it’s done … what they can have access to, and to take the guesswork out of how to create these alignments.”

Wilson said that panelists will talk about requirements of the procurement process for contracts.

“The procurement pieces (can) sometimes can be a little bit unequal for smaller businesses,” she said. “So we’re gonna talk about the certification for government contracts.”

She said that another topic would be incubators and accelerators for startup businesses.

Wilson said that Pebblebrook High School has an entrepreneurial curriculum where “some of the students are already creating businesses, taking their ideas and turning them into business ventures.”

“And we want to talk about how that would that look across school systems where you plant the seed early, and then you watch it grow and develop into entrepreneurs, who will have a solid foundation,” she said.

Wilson said that in addition to new programs, the panel will discuss existing incubators, including RICE (the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs) and the programs developed by the Urban League.

The Courier asked Wilson if the focus of the summit was on startups.

She said that the focus is on businesses that not only want to grow, but to grow sustainably.

“We can grow a business in the short term, but we want to show them how to be grounded, to develop and to keep evolving to sustainability, because economies change, things change, a lot of things that affect business change,” she said.

As an example she mentioned that a lot of businesses didn’t last through the COVID pandemic.

“If you look across Mableton, you will notice that there is a booming housing building,” she said. “A lot of people are coming in with great disposable income.”

“And one of the things we hear they talk about all the time is not wanting to get into their cars and drive to 10 different places,” Wilson said. “They wanted to have the ability to be able to go to a kind of downtown or an area where they park their cars and take care of most of their business in one area.”

“And how do we do that?” she asked. “We have to start to grow our own businesses and support them and provide the resources and information to them so that they can be sustainable, so that we’re not always moving a moving target, but that we can have a walkable Mableton.”

The Courier asked how that could be done, since Mableton doesn’t have the sort of downtown area that other cities in the county have.

“Maybe it’s just time we turn the tables and say it’s Mableton’s turn to start looking at seriously building out these corridors,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of good stuff in small pockets. How about we connect all of those and create a good sustainable economic base across Mableton?”

MIC President Ray Thomas added, “Yes, certainly, we do not have a centralized location right now that you can call Downtown Mableton.”

“However, we have, in my opinion, the potential for establishing a downtown area right around the Silver Comet Trail, and between the Silver Comet Trail coming south to the Mable House.”

“If you look at that particular corridor, we already have many commercial establishments. We have the (Mable House Barnes) Amphitheatre. We have land that’s available. And so I think we have the potential infrastructure available to build that downtown area you’re talking about.”

He said the downtown area could even go beyond the Mable House, southward to Mableton Parkway and Veterans Memorial Highway.

“That intersection is probably our second most active intersection as it relates to traffic,” Thomas said.

Wilson gave a brief summary of what the day would look like, and said that a special feature will the presentation of the MIC Excellence Awards.

Former Governor Roy Barnes, who grew up in Mableton, will receive the Mableton Legacy Award. Dr. Dana Giles, the Principal at Pebblebrook High School will get the Visionary for Entrepreneurship award. First Christian Church of Mableton will the honored as a Community Partner. The Business Impact Awards will go to Dr. Chea Rainford of Vibrant Smiles Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, Ford Thigpen of Westside Bank, and Tarryn Sampson of TS Tax & Accounting Services.

Recognition for Economic Development Contributor will go to Cobb Works, and Community Sponsorship recognition goes to Cobb Parks & Recreation.

“So those are some of the things that we’re going to be looking to bring in throughout the day, for a little bit of motivation, some uplifting moments in between the sessions,” Wilson said. “But I guarantee you, if you look at our 16 speakers, we have brought together the knowledge, the expertise and the strength of business development and economic development to this particular summit for that day to give just the best for every attendee that shows up for the day.”

“I just want to add to what Maxine just said, because this is extremely important, in addition to what Maxine just mentioned, and that is workforce development,” Thomas said. “You may or may not know that there’s going to be a Workforce Development Center that’s going to be built in Mableton.”

“Many of our businesses have expressed their concerns about lack of labor, or getting labor in our community,” he said. “And so this workforce development is going to be essential in that, it’s going to provide a place where workers can come and get trained for the jobs that are available to them.”

“And then businesses will have a place to go to find workers,” said Thomas.

“And one of the things is, you know, there’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence, AI, and its potential impact on business.”

“We will have an expert from Georgia Tech, who is going to be at the summit talking about how businesses can utilize artificial intelligence to their benefit. So those are a couple of things I want to just want to add to what Maxine had already said.”

To read a list of the panelists who will speak at the MIC Economic Development Summit, visit this link to the flyer for the event.

To learn more about the event and how to register, follow this link to the MIC web page for the event.