PowerSouth CEO Gary Smith, center, with Troy University Senior Vice Chancellor Walter Givhan and Associate Vice Chancellor Rebecca Watson.
For almost 80 years, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative has played a major role in providing power to people and businesses across the state of Alabama and within the northwest region of Florida. Now, PowerSouth and its CEO, Gary Smith, are providing the power of support to Troy University in the form of a generous donation for the TROY IDEA Bank.
An initiative of TROY’s Sorrell College of Business housed in a historic bank building in downtown Troy, Alabama, the IDEA Bank will help cultivate and support student entrepreneurs who will launch business ventures in collaboration with faculty, fellow students and mentors from the community.
“Any time you can start businesses and take a historic building and make it viable, it is important for rural communities,” Smith said. “With the IDEA Bank, it’s the same premise. You’re trying to improve local communities and give young business people and entrepreneurs a start—that boost coming out of the box.”
When Smith looks at his company’s service area, he sees an area full of promise and Troy University influence. That’s one of the reasons why TROY and PowerSouth have spent the last 20 years partnering in various projects with a shared vision. “We are trying to do the same thing which is build the communities within our service territories,” he said. “TROY is trying to build it with people who will stay in the area, and we’re trying do it by building communities, so it’s a natural partnership to work together trying to improve the communities and improve the people living in those communities.”
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Walter Givhan, Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, said “PowerSouth’s significant donation will help ensure that this important public-private partnership is successful and has a positive economic impact on our local area and across the state.”
Dr. Judson Edwards, dean of TROY’s Sorrell College, said TROY’s IDEA Bank creates a one-stop location to support students and the local community in their pursuits to start new businesses. “The IDEA Bank provides the needed physical laboratory where ideas become action, and with strong support from both the University and our partners, it ultimately leads to new start-up enterprises,” Edwards said. “…Perhaps most importantly, it provides a collaborative space for new entrepreneurs to come together and support one another. Their ability to share ideas, concerns, problems, obstacles and opportunities may lead to new strategic directions, partnerships or products. Though we will provide numerous support services through our outreach centers and faculty, my guess is that users of the IDEA Bank will help one another even more.”
Edwards said he’s excited to have PowerSouth’s support. “I just can’t thank them enough for what they have done in terms of their financial support, and I look forward to their continued involvement with our entrepreneurship program,” he said. “We want them to remain engaged, creating a long-term collaborative partnership. Our partners can provide so much more than just financial support, like sharing specialized expertise to these new entrepreneurs, just by remaining actively engaged with the new academic entrepreneurship program and IDEA Bank.”
Smith said he hopes the IDEA Bank will empower new innovators, developers and entrepreneurs and allow them to sow back into their communities. “You need people who have the fire, intelligence and the drive to make things happen,” he said. “This can give them a start.
Hopefully, the IDEA Bank will jumpstart some young careers and some businesses in our area—that’s the hope. This is not a gift as much as it’s an investment. … You have to make investments in people and things, and we’re pleased to make this investment.”“We are so appreciative of Gary Smith’s leadership at PowerSouth and the investment they are making in Troy University that will benefit our faculty, staff and students who are collaborating to bring new ideas into the marketplace,” said Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. “PowerSouth is so important to the future of our region, and we are grateful to have this influential company as a partner with us in this new endeavor at TROY.”