BOWIE — On Oct. 10, Bowie State University (BSU) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its new entrepreneurship center, which is set to open in July 2021.

“We are just so thrilled to have this project getting underway,” said BSU President Aminta Breaux. “We are very proud to partner with Balfour Beatty and Smoot to embark on a new historic journey for Bowie State University.”

Local and state officials gathered at the university to celebrate the beginning of construction for the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community, which is scheduled to begin in February 2020.

“It’s exciting to see the concept has made it to this phase, and soon the construction for the Entrepreneurial Living and Learning Community will begin,” Breaux said.

The new building, which has been in the works for more than two years, will be a bridge to a new learning environment, Breaux said. It will be home to the school’s Entrepreneurship Academy and the Bowie Business Innovation Center (Bowie BIC).

The Entrepreneurship Academy aims to help students create their own business opportunities as well as allows students to become assets to well-established companies by becoming innovative thinkers and problem solvers.

With a team of BSU students, alumni, businesses, and donors, the academy allows students to infuse entrepreneurial thinking across disciplines and launch businesses and brings in high school students by providing them with entrepreneurial activities.

Meanwhile, the Bowie BIC is the first business accelerator located at a historically black university in Maryland. It is a business accelerator and collaborative workspace for technology companies and government contractors within Prince George’s County. The center provides business owners with the opportunity to receive business support through mentoring, training, workshops and professional business counseling.

In addition to the Entrepreneurship Academy and the Bowie BIC, the new entrepreneurship center will also contain space to house BSU student businesses, a student maker space and technology-infused classrooms.

However, it will not only serve as a learning facility. It will meet the growing demand for expanding on-campus housing as it will provide dorm space for about 500 students. Additionally, it will be open to the public with retail space.

Located along right across Jericho Park Road, among the goals of the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community are that it will encourage passing cars to stop in and see what’s going on, creating “a gateway to open the campus to others,” Breaux said.

Built through a public-private partnership, the $42 million project was funded partly by tax-exempt bonds through the Maryland Economic Development Corporation. Lead contractor Balfour Beatty Construction will be partnering with Smoot Construction, a minority-owned general contractor, and Design Collective Inc., a national, award-winning design firm, to complete the project.

The facility will pull together key factors in entrepreneurship and education, including business and infrastructure, said Maryland Economic Development Commission Executive Director Robert Brennan. Most importantly, it will be “part of the state’s mission to develop a world-class workforce.”

“We’ve learned that projects like this happen with excitement,” said University System of Maryland (USM) Vice Chancellor for Economic Growth J. Thomas Sadowski, as well as the energy, passion and vision of the administrators, staff and everybody who worked on this new entrepreneurship center.

USM places a high priority on entrepreneurship creating 100 new startups each year, said Sadowski. Creating an entrepreneurship center such as this one takes the entire community to nurture young minds and provide the support needed.

According to Breaux, the new Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community comes on the heels of a lot of accomplishments at BSU. These include being ranked number three among historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) across the country, a top-five university in Maryland for African Americans graduating in fields such as nursing and biology, and having the best value among Maryland’s four-year colleges and universities.

Additionally, 80% of BSU students remain in Maryland and contribute to the state’s economy. The entrepreneurial center will be just another asset to the BSU community, Breaux said.

“For over two years, each one of you remembers, you have heard me go on and on and on about this project,” Breaux said. “I tried to describe what this could possibly look like and for two and a half years I’ve been saying ‘just imagine, students can come into the university into this extraordinarily new building that is designed to bridge learning environments and connect us to the larger community’ and it’s finally, finally happening.”

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