Montgomery Business Journal

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Fresh Look



February 2011
By David Zaslawsky

The lobby in the Small Business Resource Center was not projecting the image that is desired in a business setting.

The counter in the receptionist’s area was so obtrusive that the people working behind the counter had to stand up to make eye contact and talk to visitors.

There were a couple of plain chairs and a glass-top table in a waiting area that was neither comfortable nor inviting.

The lobby was unchanged since 1997 and as Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) Executive Director Douglas Jones Jr. said “it looked dated.”

But that was then. Now, the lobby has had a facelift and the difference is dramatic. Jones, who is also vice president of business services for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, said that the lobby “is much more professional, more inviting and has more of a high-tech type of feel.”

For one thing, the receptionist area no longer has the feel of a bunker. It is open and inviting. “Customers can come in and even sit at the desk and interact with the receptionist and learn about our incubation program and other activities inside the center,” Jones said.

That waiting area now has comfortable couches and chairs as well as a plasma television to show videos about the SBRC – its services and clients. Thirteen of the center’s 20 clients are in the incubation program, which offers a wide range of services at reduced costs for start-ups and other young companies. The videos will also include a virtual tour of the 48,000-square-foot facility.

Another feature of the renovated lobby area will be a listing of current incubation program clients and graduates from the program in addition to a display case for current clients to show materials.

“Somebody coming into the area will be able to see who has benefited from our incubation program and who is currently in our incubation program and the goods and services that they provide,” Jones said. “We want to give some visual appeal to (the area) so people will feel comfortable and it will look interesting so people will want to spend some time here.”

It will also help with recruiting new clients to the incubation program as will all the lobby improvements.

“When individuals come into an updated space vs. an outdated space, they feel the energy of it; they feel the excitement of it; and it helps them to visualize themselves being a part of it,” Jones said.

Three potential clients have been interviewed since the lobby renovation and the new look and features helped in recruiting.

Jones said that clients and visitors alike “really like the change.” He said that barriers from the low ceilings were removed and many have commented about the center’s “new ceiling.”

“I’ve had clients that have been in the building for two years come up to me and say, ‘I like your new ceiling.’ ”

Jones insists that the ceiling is not new just altered and he’s heard talk about the lobby area looks larger.

The four-month project cost about $54,000, according Jones, but he estimated the actual value “is probably twice that” because companies either donated products and services or charged reduced rates. The project was directed by the architectural firm of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, which donated their design services and project manager services.

“They also used their relationships and influence to help get discounted goods and services,” Jones said.

Russell Construction of Alabama Inc. worked for their cost, Jones said.

Local artists and students from Montgomery Public Schools donated work that is being displayed in the lobby area, along a hallway and a back wall. That back wall area was
also renovated and can now serve as a reception area for Auburn University at Montgomery, which has an office at the center.

Thank you to the following for their contributions to the Chamber’s SBRC Lobby: Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc; Russell Construction of Alabama, Inc.; Performa Technologies; Centiva; Shaw Industries Group, Inc.; Weiss Flooring, Inc.; Goggans, LLC; Hunter’s Trail Cabinets, LLC; Kimball International; Business Interiors, Inc.; Crossville Tile and Stone; Ashley Ledbetter of Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts; Amanda Roberson of AMR Art & Fine Paper; Amber Ivey Lane; Midstate Advertising & Signs; Auburn University Montgomery; Alabama Power Co.; Balch & Bingham LLP; TCU Consulting Services; and State Representative Thad McClammy.


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