LITHIA SPRINGS – Mercer recently received a $42,000 Google Data Center Community Grant to support conversion of two classrooms into high-tech Workforce Innovation Labs at the University’s Douglas County Regional Academic Center.

The new Workforce Innovation Labs will focus on workforce development through goals serving Mercer students and the enrollment interests of the University, while also supporting corporate partners, community members, entrepreneurs, and emerging and expanding businesses in Metro Atlanta. 

These goals include offering a state-of-the-art co-working space for students, faculty, staff, small businesses, freelancers, contractors and entrepreneurs; providing opportunities for hands-on digital literacy skills workshops; serving as a space to facilitate professional workshops and graduate courses; and providing an off-site meeting space for training and development opportunities for local businesses and organizations.

“As a university committed to excellence and innovation, we welcome collaborative opportunities that strengthen and empower communities served by Mercer,” said Dr. Penny Elkins, senior vice president for enrollment management. “The Workforce Innovation Labs are consistent with our mission to benefit not only students, faculty and staff but also community members and stakeholders.”

The Google Data Center Community Grants Program supports eligible organizations and initiatives that directly affect the immediate community surrounding a Google Data Center. Douglas County’s Google Data Center and Mercer’s Regional Academic Center are located within 3 miles of one another in Lithia Springs. 

“I am excited to see the partnership between Mercer University and Google that supports businesses in our community,” said Sara Ray, president and CEO of the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce. “The Workforce Innovation Labs will serve as a space for businesses to explore possibilities, expand opportunities and ultimately cultivate a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Douglas. The Douglas County Chamber is thrilled to support this initiative in our efforts to be the place where partnerships and businesses thrive.”

Data Center Community Grants fund projects that focus on the areas of education, economic opportunity, bridging the digital divide, sustainability, health and science, and arts and culture. Proposals are weighed on a number of factors, including location and geographic impact, measurable and demonstrable benefit to the community, organizational capacity, integration with community resources and innovative approaches that have potential for replication.

“Dr. Justin Brown, coordinator at the Douglas County Regional Academic Center, led the effort and worked tirelessly with the local Google Data Center team. We were ecstatic that Google embraced our vision and supported the Workforce Innovation Labs initiative. The WIL will be a collaborative, educational space that will enable Mercer to be at the forefront of improving job readiness, work productivity and career expansion for community members,” said retired Lt. Col. Scott Mahone, director of operations for Mercer’s Regional Academic Centers.

Mercer’s 27,200-square-foot Douglas County Regional Academic Center opened in 1996 at 975 Blairs Bridge Rd. in Lithia Springs and includes 12 classrooms, two computer labs, a library, student lounge, micro-market, and faculty and student success offices.

The Center offers degree programs in all instructional formats designed for working adults and post-traditional students, ranging from business, education, human resources, informatics and human-computer interaction to communication, criminal justice, organizational leadership and pre-nursing.