21st Century Partnership

April 22, 2021

Over the past month, the 21st Century Partnership, Middle Georgia State University and Georgia Power have supported Bleckley County and the City of Cochran’s work toward building a future of innovation in their community.

What is Innovation? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes innovation as a new idea, method, or device; the introduction of something new.  Not to be confused with Invention, a brand-new idea or product; Innovation takes an existing idea or existing dilemma, and takes problem solving to a new level. For example, the first car was the invention, self-driving cars are innovation.

To some innovation is creating software, to others, it could be creative problem solving and yet to another, encouraging and growing future leaders.  Innovation can have a broad scope but in its simplest form, innovation is a group of individuals collaborating, thinking outside the box, to move an existing idea, to the next level.

Innovation is sparked when one takes a step back, and looks at a situation in a new light, a new angle, and collaborates with others to see that vision come to light. Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes, but at the heart of innovation is individuals collaborating to solve issues in a creative way and to switch from the ideas of “we have always done it that way” and acknowledging that technology has moved us forward.

Thursday, April 22, 2021, Middle Georgia State University (MGA) hosted a day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Bleckley Co. Leadership in Warner Robins.

The Bleckley County Leadership, 21st Century Partnership and Georgia Power toured MGA’s Center for Software Innovation (CfSI) at their Warner Robin’s Campus. This innovation center is a partnership between MGA, community, and Robins Air Force Base. The center was designed to connect students, businesses, and the Air Force to solve problems and challenges through software. Another added benefit of MGA is their dual enrollment program, where high school students can complete high school and earn college credits at the same time.  MGA offers 5 campuses, one in Cochran, GA and online classes everywhere serving over 8,000 students.

The next stop was Project Synergy at The R. Wayne Lowe Synergy Innovation Complex. This innovation center provides nearly 43,000 square feet for the 402nd Software Engineering Group (SWEG) as well as a 9,000 square foot secure lab.  It also has a space for building future workforce through internships. Project Synergy is a partnership with Robins Air Force Base and the 402nd Software Engineering Group, Houston County Board of Commissioners, Houston County Board of Education and Career Academy, Houston County Development Authority, and others. It will solve software challenges for the Air Force and teach students agile software development.

The final stop of the day was My Grandma’s Empanadas, home to authentic Panamanian food, in Warner Robins.  Rikki Waite, having lived in Cochran, and attended MGA has a strong connection with the people of Bleckley County and the City of Cochran.  She shared with the group how she began in software but had a love for her grandma’s empanadas. She shared her story of how My Grandma’s Empanadas became a reality. Rikki uses fresh ingredients from local farmers and décor from local artisans. She suggested that there are already entrepreneurs ready to build their dreams in Cochran, they just need the support of community to see their vision come to life.