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Brenau considers Florida campus
Gainesville-based university has $100 million economic impact
Brenau University President Ed Schrader speaks Thursday to the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce at the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville. - photo by Courtesy Brenau University

Brenau University’s ready to head south for winter.

“You see our next plans for expansion, and that is a Florida campus in Jacksonville,” President Ed Schrader said.

Schrader was speaking at Thursday’s Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors luncheon meeting.

If the Jacksonville, Fla., campus becomes a reality, it will be Brenau’s first out-of-state venture. There are five Georgia locations, including the main campus in Gainesville.

The university has a small presence at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in South Georgia, around 40 miles north of Jacksonville.

“It’s doing very, very well and we’re not going to do anything with that except keep it, but there’s no room to expand there and go into things that we feel have some opportunities,” said David Morrison, vice president of communications and publications for the university. “The only place that really makes sense to expand would be across the state line.”

Schrader said there have been market surveys done in the area that show a need for continuing education in nursing, and graduate education in teacher education and business.

Jacksonville is home to Jacksonville University, the University of North Florida and a branch of Florida State College.

Both Schrader and Morrison said the idea is in the very early stages, and several steps will have to be taken in order to develop a presence in another state.

“We’ll see where it goes, but that’s an exciting advance for us,” Schrader said.

Thursday’s meeting was held in the Brenau Downtown Center, 301 Main St. SW. The building is the former Georgia Mountains Center; the city of Gainesville leased it to Brenau in February 2012, granting the building to the university for 50 years.

Renovations have been ongoing to prepare for the university’s proposed doctoral physical therapy program, tentatively scheduled to begin in January 2015. In the meantime, some theater programs will expand into the Downtown Center.

The Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Economic Development Report, which was issued in April, listed Brenau as having $92 million in annual economic impact. Once the Downtown Center is fully operational, that’s expected to grow to $150 million.

“This year, Brenau has over $100 million in economic impact, primarily in Northeast Georgia,” Schrader said.