The Ozark’s Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) recently received one of the highest awards given by the State of Missouri, the Governor’s Community Redevelopment Award. It was presented by Governor Jay Nixon at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in St. Louis on Sept. 7.
The Governor’s Community Redevelopment Award recognizes the best example of a community/redevelopment project that demonstrates a significant impact on a neighborhood or community.
The award was accepted by Toney Aid, director of OzSBI, on behalf of Downtown West Plains, Inc. and the many other groups and individuals who have helped establish OzSBI. Also attending the awards luncheon at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel were Heather Fisher, OzSBI coordinator; Drew Bennett, MSU-WP Chancellor; Darrell Hampton coordinator of MSU-WP Small Business and Technology Development Center; Brian Adcock, Ozark Action; Bob Case, City of West Plains; Kyle Walker of SCOCOG; and Cathy Proffitt-Boys, MSU-WP.
Aid said he was very pleased that OzSBI was receiving statewide recognition. “Our hope has always been that OzSBI could become a model for how incubators can work in rural communities. This is a clear way to grow our local economy, raise incomes, provide jobs, and revitalize our area.”
The Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI), located in historic downtown West Plains, is the result of cooperation between Downtown West Plains, the City of West Plains, the Industrial Development Corporation, Missouri State University-West Plains, University of Missouri Extension, the State of Missouri, and local donors and federal funding entities.
The idea for OzSBI was first discussed in 2006 with the goal of promoting the redevelopment of downtown West Plains and creating new businesses to grow the area’s economy. The historic Butler Building was restored for the project. The building had last been used as a furniture store and was in poor condition when renovation began in 2009.
Today, OzSBI provides offices and meeting space for new business, a micro- loan fund to address the access to capital needs of small businesses, and is helping create business clusters to maximize local resources. The facility also is provides a strong program of education, training, and mentoring to new and existing businesses. Since the opening of the incubator, two new businesses have opened five non-tenant clients have signed up for services. Additionally, 45 entrepreneurs have taken the Operation Jump Start training. As the graduates of Operation JumpStart develop new businesses and expanding existing ones, OzSBI will continue to create jobs positively impacting the local economy.
The startup cost of the project has been over $2 million, but it already has created 28 new jobs and has the potential to create 100’s more. While the initial private and public investment in OzSBI has been high, its goal is to be self-sustaining within three years. It will prove to be a solid investment in the future of our area that will continue to yield dividends for many years to come in jobs, increased income and a strong economy for the area.
Aid commented, “This is a large investment in growing our economy. But unlike most stimulus funds that are spent on current jobs and projects, the money going into OzSBI will continue to generate jobs for many years to come. Its facilities and programs are an investment in the best resource we have, our own people here in the Ozarks.”
He also invited everyone to watch for the opening of the new Idea Center later this fall. It is a new space designed to attract entrepreneurs to work together in groups building their business plans. If you work from home, as many people do, the Idea Center will give you a chance to get out one or two times a week to work in a group setting, recharge your excitement and move ahead. Open houses for the entire incubator building will be held during the Idea Center opening.