Florala begins incubator project

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just as it was an opportune site to grow great minds, Florala officials believe the old middle school property is a great place to grow a new business – or several new businesses.

Mayor Robert Williamson said Monday the city is in the beginning stages of creating an incubator site at the old Florala City Middle School.

“We’re trying to utilize some of the city’s property that is currently not occupied,” Williamson said. “There are multifaceted benefits to creating an incubator. There’s the benefit of occupying the building, and two, it helps the business owner cut some of their overhead.

“It’s more that we need to put this property to good use,” he said.

Students vacated the building in 2010 and are now split between W.S. Harlan Elementary and Florala High schools. Once the property ceased to be an educational facility, ownership reverted from the county school board to the city.

Since the school’s closure, the gym portion of the building has been utilized; a few of the classrooms have been used for civic meetings, and Sav-A-Life operates a branch office in one of the larger classrooms.

Williamson said city council members recognize the possibilities of the building.

“We know it would be good for certain businesses in the way it is set up,” Williamson said of the property. “Immediate things that come to mind are a pre-school, a nursery because, obviously, it’s a school. It would be great for some type of cultural opportunities such as music or dance lessons.

“I wouldn’t be opposed, and I don’t think the school board would be either, to seeing something go in the Vargas Building,” he said of the school board-owned annex building on the property. “I think that would make a great location for some type of call center.”

Williamson said the process is beginning to establish an incubator board.

“We’re going to put together a group of people to determine the parameters of accepting a tenant,” he said. “It’s in the early stages, but in the long run, it’s all about getting more jobs for Florala.”