In a room marked by exposed duct work and unfinished walls, Johnson C. Smith launched Innovo Laboratory, a small business incubator, at Packard Place on Wednesday. The event drew a mix of Charlotte’s black business owners from No Grease co-founder Damian Johnson to attorney Eric Montgomery. Former Charlotte Observer business columnist Ron Stodghill will lead Innovo. The organization’s mission is to connect the businesses community with the next generation of business leaders, Stodghill said during Wednesday’s launch party.
Stodghill recently attended a White House Summit on entrepreneurship. The Innovo project has the full support of Mayor Anthony Foxx, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, Charlotte Chamber president Bob Morgan and a host of other civic and business leaders.
Innovo will create a multi-faceted program to develop entrepreneurship and leadership through internships, mentorships and lectures.It will be housed in Packard Place, an innovative building created specifically for entrepreneurs. Packard Place is currently undergoing renovations. Many of the offices are gutted and are currently under construction. The Innovo launch party was held in what will one day be office space.
JCSU president Ronald Carter said Innovo was born out of the university’s desire to engage the Charlotte community. Other engagement efforts include a 63,000 square foot science center in the Beatties Ford Corridor, said Carter, who’s been traveling the country speaking about the university. The science center’s groundbreaking will be in October. Carter said JCSU will also build a sustainable village.
“We are an innovative university,” Carter said.