Plans formally have moved forward on The Mill on Park, a downtown Aiken office community now under renovation.

Signing a memorandum of understanding on Friday were Catie Rabun, president of Caradasa LLC, USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan and Laura DiSano, co-director of the Small Business Development Center, located on the USCA campus.

The new business, located at the former Regions Bank operations center at the corner of Park Avenue and Laurens Street, is named after Rabun and her father, David Sacks. The Mill is intended, in part, to lease small offices to those who may work at home or don't require larger office space. It would also attract new micro-businesses, entrepreneurs and small, established firms.

Those tenants will have access to conference rooms and office equipment.

“We have the commitment of stakeholders in the community who want to see this work,” Rabun said. “The idea is for tenants to lease space for a fraction of what they would need otherwise.”

USCA and the Small Business Development Center anticipate a presence at The Mill at Park. The center, which for more than 20 years has educated hundreds of businesses, will bring its services to downtown Aiken.

The university is awaiting accreditation to start a new MBA program with a non-traditional mission in January 2015. USCA will seek applicants who want to pursue the postgraduate degree, but are not business majors. They would divide their time between the School of Business Administration and The Mill. School of Business faculty would provide assistance to the MBA students and to The Mill tenants, as well.

The MBA candidates would also benefit from the connections to new and existing businesses at The Mill.

“There are many scientists with wonderful skills to offer the community, but they may not have the familiarity of how to do business,” DiSano said. “We'll have USCA involved in that way to get an educational foundation for them.”

The building should open to tenants in the spring. The facility has 19,000 square feet and will offer one-person offices and larger ones for up to five people. In addition to a conference room, other services will include a full kitchen and equipment ranging from high-speed Internet to copying, scanning and faxing capabilities.

“We are very thrilled to be working with this project with what we bring to the table,” Rabun said. “But without USCA and the Small Business Center, it wouldn't be the same project. Aiken will benefit from everything we have to offer.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.