Companies growing at business incubator

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Business Today

POPLAR BLUFF -- Two new tenants have moved into the business incubator at the Ozark Foothills Regional Planning Commission at 3019 Fair St., bringing the total at the incubator to five.

The incubator assists new businesses with startup, and it helps existing businesses with expansion services.

In addition to space at the facility to conduct business, Ozark Foothills also provides receptionist services, telephone answering, janitorial service, business and financial planning assistance, marketing help, loan and grant application assistance, parking, clerical and copying, and other business amenities.

The purpose of the incubator is to give a fledgling business a boost into the industrial world, and to make it easier for existing businesses to grow.

American Tool and Plastics currently has three employees: Jeff and Amanda Jones, the owners, and supervisor Randy Gilpin. Jones and Gilpin have 30 years of tool and die experience between them.

American Tool, which opened Jan. 1, makes industrial pumps, pressure and chemical pumps for industrial dishwashers and a number of pressure gauges and instruments.

Jeff Jones hopes to move into his own building and provide jobs for maybe a dozen people.

"The sky's the limit for us," he said. "We hope to be able to grow and expand and become a nice-size company one day. It's been a tough road with the way the economy is, but things are starting to turn around for us and hopefully the future will be a lot brighter."

Tim Worley and Chris Solomon opened the Cabinet Worx nearly two months ago. They each have about 15 years of cabinet building experience, and now they're hammering out the details of their own business. A friend in the industry told Worley about the incubator.

Cabinet Worx can provide custom-built cabinets for kitchens and bathrooms, but the business focuses on cabinet refacing. Refacing can be a money-saver for the consumer, Worley said.

They take old doors off the cabinets, pull out the old drawers and then build new ones to replace them.

Customers can choose from four different kinds of wood - oak, cherry, maple and hickory. The interior remains the same, but the new doors and drawers give the kitchen or bathroom the look of a remodeled room for about 50 to 60 percent of the cost.

"The customer doesn't have the expense of tearing out the old cabinets, replacing the flooring, a lot of things that don't come into play when you're starting from scratch," Worley said. "For people who have rental property and don't want to put a whole lot of money into it, refacing is the perfect thing."

Cabinet Worx will also do custom building and will install countertops as well.

Another business at the incubator, although not new, is ARAMARK. It has been around since it bought Todd Uniforms in 1996. It's an international company that provides food service, facility maintenance and housekeeping. Locally it uses space in the business incubator as a warehouse for picking up and receiving uniforms it provides for local businesses, according to Gil Roslen, district manager.

ARAMARK provides clean uniforms weekly for such businesses as Briggs & Stratton, NORDYNE, Larry Hillis, Blackwell-Baldwin, and other industries that create the need for heavy-duty cleaning. The uniforms are brought to the warehouse at the incubator, then taken to be laundered at a plant in Sikeston, and brought back to the incubator cleaned, pressed and ready for delivery to businesses.

ARAMARK's territory outside Poplar Bluff goes west to Birch Tree, and includes territory between here and Steele, Knobel and Corning in Arkansas, and Dexter and Bloomfield. Four route drivers keep the product moving.

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