DDA hosts launch of site to promote area to start-up businesses

Published by Morgan County Citizen
Stephanie Johns
March 7, 2013

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) hosted the launch of Startupoint at Madison Chop House Grille last Tuesday.

The city now has an interactive website platform that identifies area offerings for startup businesses: it points startups in the right direction. Get it? Start-up-point.

Madison served as the pilot small town for this small business asset mapping project.

City Planning Director Monica Callahan explained that this is one of the DDA’s BoomTown projects. BoomTown, which stands “Building Opportunity On Main (BOOM) Street,” is a historic redevelopment program.

The BoomTown program focuses on reusing existing, underutilized structures.

The first of the DDA’s BoomTown projects was a digital toolbox that has seven links to paperwork associated with downtown development.

The second had two parts: specialized training in Rome followed by a feasibility study done by the BoomTown team in October 2012.

This is their third project. Their fourth project will be a Real Estate Locator.

Startupoint founder Justin Sacks and his colleague KC Boyce led those present through Madison’s platform at http://www.startupoint.org/Madison.

Sacks said he came up with the idea for Startupoint after asking himself, “How do we help our businesses find resources they need to succeed?”

He mapped Atlanta resources on paper and said people were excited.

He noted that so many resources – in print or online – intended to help small businesses are static and become obsolete after about a year.

“Everyone can get a website up but no one can maintain it,” he said.

Sacks shared a story of how difficult he found the licensing process in Atlanta.

“This shouldn’t be so hard,” he said. “If you don’t know what you have it’s just guessing.”

Sacks said the goal for this platform is to make it faster for startups to move through the permitting and licensing process.

The Madison Startupoint platform currently has six main categories: money, people, space, support, networks, and products and services.

Under money visitors to the site can read about downtown façade grants, job creation tax credits, and preservation tax incentives.

The people category offers details about Madison Main Street Director Ann Huff and what she can do for businesses in that city.

DDA Chair Shandon Land asked about including mentors interested in advising small business owners.

“There are probably many in town who are retired with experience to mentor,” she said.

City Manager David Nunn said he thought that would be useful information to include as mentors would know about questions and opportunities for small businesses.

“There are people who have energy and time,” he said.

Space has four subcategories with one providing information for three locations offering business suites: 111 W. Jefferson St., North Main Street, and the Vason Building under shared offices.

Under the permits and licenses subcategory one may find details about business licenses, certificates of inspection and occupancy, sign permits, and zoning verification.

And under the site selection and relocation subcategory startups are informed about the online Real Estate Locater that will go live May 1.

Both design assistance and design studio façade renderings can be found under support, as can information about the Georgia Small Business Development Center.

The networks category includes opportunities to contact the Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and Madison Main Street.

The Bank of Madison, Complete Accounting Solutions LLC, and Jim Boyd & Associates Insurance & Bonds can be found under the products and services category.

Planning Assistant Mollie Bogle said that city staff can create profiles for businesses and subsequently have the businesses take over the profile or the businesses can create their own profiles from the start.

Callahan noted that this is not a business list. That list may be found at www.madisonga.com – click on “City Services,” then “Business Services,” and finally “City Business Directory” to find that list.

Also, she said it is not a substitute for the Chamber of Commerce website. That site is www.madisonga.org.

“This is supposed to be for attracting new businesses and letting them know of services for small businesses,” she said.

For those who create a profile and login, there is a calendar of events that can be exported to Google Calendar.

There are plans to include a printable map in future.