Since its inception, the mission of USA’s Melton Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MCEI) has been to emphasize fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in the local business community. The university’s latest version of “Shark Tank,” designated as The Coastal Ideas Challenge, is designed to do just that.

“The submission of a winning idea will require creative, methodical planning and very careful writing, but is much less involved than a fully developed business plan. The Coastal Ideas Challenge will help participants develop an ability to think in an entrepreneurial way and help to develop the competencies needed to identify and successfully implement new business ideas throughout their careers,” Mark Weaver, MCEI executive director said.

The event is open to three divisions: K-12, Collegiate, and Community. The idea is to give participants from all ages and backgrounds a chance to bring their idea to market. There are nine prizes of cash and free professional services to be awarded by varying qualifications. Applicants have until 11:59 p.m. on the last day of submissions, April 15, to complete and turn in an entry.

MCEI will evaluate the ideas and identify the top 30 finalists. Authors of the top 10 ideas in each of the three divisions will be notified by April 15, 2015. The top 30 authors will be honored at a reception, May 8, 2015, where each will receive a certificate. The top three prize-winners in each division of the competition will also be announced.

GCS&I acquires Gulf Coast Roll-a-way

GCS&I, Inc., a Mobile-based contractor and building supply company recently acquired Gulf Coast Roll-a-way, one of the state’s largest installation contractors of hurricane and decorative shutters.

GCS&I also recently moved Gulf Coast Roll-a-way from its Gulf Shores office to a newly renovated facility located at 8371 State Highway 59 in Foley. The property has 1,700-square-feet of showroom/offices and 5,010-square-feet of warehouse space. Roughly $20,000 of additional capital was invested into the renovations.

In addition to housing the entire sales and operations of Gulf Coast Roll-a-way, the new facility will serve as a design center to showcase all of GCS&I’s product lines, including flooring, granite countertops among many others.

The facility will also house a Baldwin county office for Development Consulting, a GCS&I affiliate that provides subdivision and site development services.

According to William Daigle, general manager of the Gulf Coast Roll-a-way division, the acquisition is a natural fit.

“Our existing retail business serving home, condo and businesses coupled with GCS&I’s new emphasis on construction creates many synergies. The new facility is also a sign of our commitment to grow the hurricane protection market,” Daigle said.

With annual sales of $2 million, Gulf Coast Roll-a-way is the largest nationwide authorized dealer of this brand as well as other national trademarks, such as HurricaneFabric Wind Screen and O’Hair Custom Plantation Shutters.

GCS&I, Inc. and affiliated companies employ over 200 in Mobile and Baldwin counties, with annual revenues in excess of $40 million.

Commercial real estate moves

The Fortis Company, a multi-family developer out of Bossier City, La., recently purchased a 23.2-acre site in the southwest quadrant of Interstate 65 and Industrial Parkway in Saraland. Plans are to construct 300 high-end apartments on the property.

The investor paid $1,950,000 for the site. The seller was represented by NAI-Mobile and Jacob Napper of Gulfbelt Properties worked for Fortis. Surety Land Title Company provided title work and assisted in closing of the transaction.

Dauphin Way Assisted Living, located at 3085 Dauphin Square Connector in Mobile, recently held a soft opening in February. The property sits on a half acre lot and the building is 17,000-square-feet. Extensive remodeling has been done to the interior with plans to add additional patient suites in the next 18 months.

The new owner is Russell Harris, president of Harris Healthcare in Pensacola. A 30-year-old family-owned business, the company owns three other assisted living facilities in the Florida area with Mobile making a fourth. According to the owner, plans are in place to possibly acquire another local assisted living facility in the near future.

CrossFit Fairhope leased a 3,000-square-foot building located at 506 Fairhope Ave. across from the Fairhope post office. Sharon Wright with White-Spunner Realty handled the transaction for the landlord and tenant.

Cameron Weavil, vice-president of the Weavil Company recently sold the former Steak-Out restaurant building located at 4680 Airport Blvd., and adjacent to Mosely’s Meat Market, for $199,000 to a local speculator. The lot encompasses approximately 17,500-square-feet and the investor intends to demolish the old structure before putting up a new building.

Covert Comics has opened in downtown Fairhope on 9 N. Church St. Co-owners are Lonnie Townsend and Chris Barnett. The shop is 800-square-feet and offers graphic novels, action figures and novelty collectibles. This is the third store opened by Barnett since 2013. He also owns 99 Issues Comics with locations in Mobile and Daphne.

1,124-square-feet of office space at the Executive Center on Western America Drive in Mobile has been leased to West Wind Medical. Bender Real Estate Group handled the transaction.

Wilkins Miller announces new partner

Wilkins Miller LLC, an accounting and advisory firm with offices in Mobile and Fairhope recently announced that Scott L. Browning, CPA, MTA, became a partner effective in January.

“We are extremely excited about Scott’s promotion” Wilkins Miller Partner John Jeffries said. “Scott has been and continues to be an integral part of our team and we look forward to having him as a member of our partner group.”

Browning graduated from the University of Alabama in 1995 with a B.S. in Commerce and Business Administration followed up with a Master of Taxation in 1996.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors for The University of Alabama Federal Tax Clinic and as the Treasurer for the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation.  He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants.

The original version of this article stated the deadline for submissions to the Melton Center was March 22. It has been extended to April 15.