Expanded Focus for College Hill: Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Knight Foundation Commits $2.3 Million to Promote a Sense of Place, Prosperity

MACON — Macon takes its next step in revitalizing the College Hill Corridor today with a new effort to boost entrepreneurship and attract homegrown businesses to the city’s downtown.

The College Hill Alliance will work to create an “Innovation Corridor” to attract talent and keep Macon’s college graduates in town with help from Jumpstart America, a nationally recognized non-profit that accelerates the success of entrepreneurs and their companies, and creates a business climate that supports them.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing $2.3 million for the effort that includes continuing the College Hill Alliance’s successful work in promoting a sense of place for the Corridor that connects Mercer University with the city’s downtown. Local leaders announced the initiative today in Mercer Village, a symbol of the Alliance’s efforts to reshape the city’s first neighborhoods.

“Over the past few years, the synergy between Mercer, Knight Foundation, and our public and private partners has fueled a transformation of the historic neighborhoods between campus and downtown,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “College Hill has become a national model for urban revitalization, but there is more work to be done. With this latest grant, we will build on our past success in implementing the College Hill master plan while joining with Jumpstart America to ramp up the job creation component of the initiative’s mission. At the end of the next three years, we fully expect this economic development and lifestyle enhancement endeavor to be locally sustainable.”

“The biggest lesson from the past few years is that the answers to Macon’s challenges, and the key to our future, comes from within our own community,” said Beverly Blake, Macon program director for Knight Foundation. “As we worked together to build a stronger sense of place in Macon, and more local graduates wanted to stay in this vibrant college town, the focus naturally expanded to creating the jobs they need to build their lives and community.”
Jumpstart America, also supported by Knight Foundation, has been highly successful in Northeast Ohio, where the initiative has led to $20 million in economic benefit to the region involving 12 high-growth companies. More than 2,500 jobs have been created and retained and over $470 million in risk capital has been raised since 2004. The organization will work with partners including the College Hill Alliance, regional development organizations and residents to link area colleges and universities with opportunities to foster entrepreneurship and technology commercialization.

Since Knight made its initial $2 million investment in the College Hill Alliance in 2009, another $25 million in residential and commercial development in the Corridor has been leveraged from public and private sources, a recent independent evaluation commissioned by the foundation found. The continued revitalization of the Beall’s Hill neighborhood, improvements to Tattnall Square Park and the development of Mercer Village are among the most visible outcomes of the College Hill initiative. The Alliance also has coordinated 42 events in the Corridor, attracting more than 17,000 attendees over the past three years.

“Nurturing local entrepreneurial talent and accelerating the development of knowledge-based local companies are essential to advancing our community as a great place to live, work, play, and now innovate,” said Patrick Madison, executive director of College Hill Alliance. “The association with JumpStart America is a wonderful opportunity for us to accelerate our efforts to build the Innovation Corridor using the advice and experience of an already successful, nationally recognized regional entrepreneurial initiative.”

Another key component to College Hill’s renaissance is the Knight Neighborhood Challenge grant program, which solicits ideas from residents for grassroots projects that improve the area. So far, the program has provided nearly $1.3 million in grants for 88 projects led by local organizations and individuals. Administered by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, the program will continue as scheduled through 2014.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center launched July 1, 2012, and includes the University’s medical, nursing and pharmacy schools and will add a fourth college – the College of Health Professions – on July 1, 2013. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more, visit www.mercer.edu.

About the College Hill Alliance
The College Hill Alliance is a grant function of Mercer University, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is responsible for fostering neighborhood revitalization in Macon, Georgia’s historic College Hill Corridor. The Alliance’s efforts focus on business recruitment and retention, lifestyle enhancement, and catalyzing commercial and residential real estate development that strengthens the historic character of College Hill. For more, visit www.collegehillmacon.com.