Changing Georgia's trajectory with a stewardship mindset: A Q&A with Rowen's Mason Ailstock

Ailstock plans to make Rowen a hub for businesses to come together and address global issues.

Changing Georgia's trajectory with a stewardship mindset: A Q&A with Rowen's Mason Ailstock

Georgia's business leaders are always looking for ways to innovate and collaborate. Rowen is a new 2,000-acre knowledge village in Gwinnett County that has just broken ground. Mason Ailstock, Rowen Foundation's President and CEO, shared his vision for Rowen as a hub that will attract local businesses and international companies to address some of the biggest global challenges.

What is Rowen, and what does it do?

Mason Ailstock : Rowen, a 2,000 acre knowledge community, recognizes that the challenges facing agriculture, medicine, and the environment can only be met through partnerships. Rowen is a 2,000-acre knowledge community that recognizes the significant challenges in agriculture, medicine and the environment. These challenges can only be addressed through comprehensive partnerships.

Rowen, located in Gwinnett County between Athens, Georgia and Atlanta, reimagines a traditional mixed-use community of offices and research to encourage discoveries and preserve the rich history of the land. The goal is to change the economic and social trajectory for Georgia, the United States and the world.

The Rowen Foundation is the nonprofit organization that oversees the planning and visioning for Rowen. Its board of directors includes leaders from higher education and the private sector. The foundation oversees project management and operations, ensuring that Rowen's vision for the future and its land stewardship is never compromised.

Why Gwinnett County for this new community?

Ailstock Rowen was built around the idea of bringing people together to share ideas, inspiration and knowledge. Gwinnett County, the most diverse county in Georgia, is the perfect location for the community. This site is off Highway 316, at the intersection between the Atlanta metro area and Athens/Gainesville. There are over 50 educational and research institutions in the vicinity. This proximity will encourage collaboration between entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators. Gwinnett County and its surrounding counties offer a workforce that is diverse in terms of skills, education levels, race, and ethnicity. This is important to Rowen.

Why do you emphasize higher education?

Ailstock: Economic opportunity is driven by education. People are driven by economic opportunity. People move from one state to another. Georgia's unique economic strategy leverages higher education, thanks to the Georgia Research Alliance and Center for Global Health Innovation. We've been in need of a neutral landing place for many of these businesses. We can create partnerships and collaborations with key institutions by involving leaders from Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT), Emory University, Spelman College, Georgia Gwinnett and the University of Georgia.

What is the environmental value of Rowen?

Ailstock: Our environment affects everything we do, including how we approach Rowen. A rich and ancient history of the land means that it is important to take care of it. The name Rowen means a "second harvest," and the site is intended to be exactly that -- a chance to harvest new ideas by combining industries. During the buildout of Rowen, we will stay true to our founding values anchored in agriculture and medicine, as well as the natural environment.

When completed, Rowen will have 800 acres of greenspace. Only native plants will be used for landscaping. We will build miles of streets and a vast trail network while maintaining the land.

How can employers, site developers and other stakeholders be part of Rowen's community?

Ailstock Rowen offers a unique campus-like setting where businesses can build their offices, laboratories, and research facilities in acres of wooded land. This allows for privacy and security, while maintaining connectivity to Rowen’s amenities, programs, and services. The Rowen Village, which offers large-scale and customizable site options, will be the center of the community. We expect to have over 800 acres of land ready for development by the fall of 2024. This will include all infrastructure, including streets. Rowen's website,, has information on the sites that are currently available.

What do you anticipate Rowen to have on the industry in the next 15 years?

Ailstock: Rowen will provide more than 18,000 jobs by 2035 and generate $1.65 billion annually, in addition to ongoing research, collaboration spaces, community, and enjoyment of the natural beauty. We are forming new partnerships in the state, and collaborating with like-minded organisations. Rowen will generate between $8 and $10 billion in annual income, and create 80 to 100,000 jobs. This will have a major impact on the Gwinnett economy, as well as the state.

Mason Ailstock has been recognized as a leader in anchor-driven development and innovation districts. Ailstock, who has nearly 20 years' experience, has helped knowledge communities by combining real estate, academics and business. He is in charge of project management and operations for Rowen. Ailstock can be reached via EMAIL.