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Professor talks up business startup investing

POSTED: April 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Alena Parker / Coastal Courier/

Dr. Ervin Williams

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Rotary President Father Will Carter jokingly said he would be "taking notes" when guest speaker Dr. Ervin Williams said his presentation was entitled Entrepreneurs and Angels.
But the Savannah State University professor wasn't talking about the heavenly kind on April 1 when he spoke to the Hinesville Rotary Club. He was promoting increased entrepreneurial activity.
"The single most important indicator of economic activity in a community is the number of new businesses that are developed," he said.
"We ought to nurture and promote and encourage entrepreneurship wherever we can in terms of creating new businesses, growing existing businesses and attracting new businesses."
Williams explained angels as "private individuals who invest in early stage growth companies," or simply "a friendly person who has deep pockets and is willing to put up money."
His talk highlighted the importance of those with the assets to invest in new businesses and entrepreneurs. As a whole the county benefits by having a stronger economy.
This is a lesson the county learned last December through the Chamber of Commerce, which helped Liberty earn an Entrepreneur-Friendly designation.
"We are really wanting to focus on the education piece of entrepreneurship, whether it be adult training, youth training or both," Kenny Smiley, chamber executive director, said after receiving the designation.
Ray Snow presented the designation from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
"I think Liberty County is unique in the sense that there's tremendous potential for small business, start-up and expansion," Snow said.
He cited the availability of labor, land and a good school system as the county's most promising assets.
Unless the investor knows the entrepreneur or has a special interest in a company, Williams suggests angels invest as a group.
He talked about his experience in Ariel Savannah Angel Partners, an investment group started in 2005.
The group distinguished itself when Carbon Motors from Atlanta chose Ariel Savannah as its investor, passing over all the other investors in Atlanta.
Williams explained that he and his partners were picked because they recognized the company's potential.
Carbon Motors is trying to launch a line of police cars.
Ariel Savannah took only a month to raise $1 million for Carbon Motors to build a prototype.
"One of the reasons that I like to be a part of the angels investors is that we have a lot of fun, we socialize, we use our business savvy to look at business ventures like this and we stay current," Williams said. "I don't want this new economic world to pass me by."
He said one survey showed an start-up business investors receive an average 27 percent return.
"That's a lot better return than most people are getting in the private sector, in terms of the stock market," Williams said. "So it's high risk but high reward."
In addition to his work at Savannah State, Williams has worked in South Africa at an entrepreneurship center started by Nelson Mandela.
"I've been delighted to participate...and help our students and other minority businesses to grow and develop."
Williams also offered to conduct a seminar to identify growth-oriented businesses in Liberty County and "look at those businesses to see if they have the scope and scale that would qualify them to be angel recipients."
Williams believes the entrepreneur field is unlimited and there can never be too many.
"The marketplace takes care of that," he said. "It's the one that's most effective with their services are the ones that we have. The problem is not enough entrepreneurship activity."
Williams reported Georgia as fifth in the nation in entrepreneur activity, leading all its surrounding states.
 

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