Leaders join to create innovative educational ecosystem.
Partnerships are powerful tools to create economic opportunities within communities. In the Robins Region, partnerships between education institutions, the business community, policy makers and an Air Force base have created a regional innovation ecosystem resulting in more high-paying jobs in the area, a more skilled workforce and more economic investment.
The Center for Software Innovation is an example of a partnership between Middle Georgia State University and Robins Air Force Base with real-world benefits for students, employers and the military. The center is designed to identify software development projects that will elevate regional companies, nonprofits, startups and other organizations.
“The Center for Software Innovation at MGA is bringing new software capabilities and novel solutions to organizations,â€ says Alex Koohang, Ph.D., dean and professor of information technology.
The center applies the mission of the university by identifying and completing software development and enhancement projects that have the express purpose of elevating Middle Georgia companies, nonprofits, startups, Robins Air Force Base and other parties interested in building businesses or organizations that will benefit Middle Georgia.
CSI’s first project is producing a software tool to automate the production of chart visualizations from data about projects and products for the Robins Air Force Tools Team/SWEG.
Koohang says that CSI’s long-term impact on the region will be significant.
“As software continues to be a driver of the economy and workforce of central Georgia, we expect that more industries will employ more educated software professionals,â€ he says. “Software engineering jobs tend to be high paying jobs that we expect to improve the livability for the region. The center will play an important role in educating students about the possibility of a career in software and raise the capabilities of partner organizations.”
Testing New Technologies
Another partnership example is the Advanced Technology and Training Center Middle Georgia at Robins AFB, which opened in 2018 to allow training and testing of new technologies in aircraft maintenance and solve problems to address issues for the war fighter. The Development Authority of Houston County and Central Georgia Technical College partnered in this with Robins AFB.
“The ATTC-MG project has been extremely successful in terms of introducing Advanced Technologies into the USAF,â€ says Russell E. Alford, site lead, ATTC-MG, Sustainment Technology Transition Division.
He points to the area of Additive Manufacturing and Cold Spray as an example.
“These technologies offer the USAF new money and time-saving means to keep weapon systems fully operational,â€ he says.
Alford says the workforce employed by the ATTCMG is highly skilled, knowledgeable and ready to assist.
“We employ design engineers who understand the potential for agile manufacturing and reverse engineering to resolve issues with both part availability and part failure,â€ he says. “We also have manufacturing engineers who can take the designs and translate them into actual parts or repairs, and the technicians who have the skills to operate the technology as well as perform the traditional manufacturing processes needed to provide finished parts to the Air Force.”
Blue Sky & Synergy
In addition, Robins Air Force Base collaborated with Macon-Bibb County government and Mercer University to make the Blue Sky software lab in downtown Macon a reality. When it opened in February 2020, the lab created 50 new technology jobs, including Mercer University engineering students. The purpose of the center is to have a place where Mercer students can work with base engineers without going through the security process of getting on base. Robins started a similar facility in Warner Robins geared toward innovation in manufacturing.
Project Synergy is also in the works. It’s a partnership between Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, Houston County Board of Commissioners, the Houston County Development Authority and the Houston County Board of Education. A software engineering center, Project Synergy will be a collaborative setting like a modern Silicon Valley style software lab and will educate and train the workforce of the future. Leaders estimate the project will add 150 jobs to the Robins Region workforce.
If you’d like to learn more about the Robins Region area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Robins Region.