Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Mercer University and Robins Air Force Base announced a partnership that will bring an innovative software development center and 50 new high-tech jobs to downtown Macon.
The center will develop software for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in a corporate laboratory setting. It will be housed in the ground floor of The Lofts at Capricorn, located at the corner of Plum Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and is expected to open in early 2020.
“We want to be a part of what’s happening here in downtown Macon. We want to expose the work that we’re doing for our Air Force to a larger audience, and we want to spark innovation and spark partnership,” said Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex Commander Brig. Gen. John C. Kubenic.
The software development center is the latest exemplar of a partnership with Mercer that Kubenic said he wants to build into “the model for our nation” on how the Air Force works with academia. The center will create a pipeline between the 402nd Software Maintenance Group at Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex and the computer engineering and computer science departments at Mercer.
“I fully expect that we’ll have computer engineers and computer scientists down here working with the folks at this facility on an ongoing basis,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “I think it’s going to be a great recruitment tool for Robins, and I think it’s going to be great for our students to see the opportunities available through the Air Force.”
The center is modeled after the Kessel Run Experimentation Lab, a software development hub in downtown Boston affiliated with the USAF Life Cycle Management Center’s Battle Management Directorate at Hanscom Air Force Base.
Kessel Run, named for a Star Wars hyperspace route completed in record time by Han Solo, began in 2018 with 30 software engineers and now has more than 200 employees working on USAF projects related to in-air refueling logistics, F-35 flying and maintenance schedules and other battle management challenges.
Kubenic and his staff worked with Macon-Bibb County leaders, including Mayor Robert Reichert, Robins Civic Leader Program member George Greer, Industrial Authority Executive Director Stephen Adams, Urban Development Authority Director Alex Morrison and NewTown Macon President and CEO Josh Rogers, to develop criteria for the site. Based on these criteria, Kubinec’s staff selected the 7,000-square-foot space in the Lofts at Capricorn as the site of the new center.
“It’s all about supporting the warfighter. It’s all about giving the software engineers a place where they can thrive, where they can really grow,” said Reichert. “It’s mutually beneficial because just as Robins Air Force Base sees the potential of being downtown because it’s ‘cool’ to be downtown in Macon, those individuals that come here from Mercer are going to find that working for the Air Force is a pretty cool place to be.”