SEMO holds grand opening for business incubator

Friday, June 22, 2007
Gov. Matt Blunt spoke at the grand opening of Southeast's new business incubator. The purpose of the incubator is to provide start-up businesses with space and resources until they can move out on their own.

Several businesses already are operating out of the low-rent space.

Southeast Missouri State University's new business incubator will help launch new businesses and create jobs, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said Thursday at the opening of the facility.

"Supporting Missouri entrepreneurs and encouraging new business opportunities is central to fostering a good economic environment," the governor said.

About 80 civic leaders, students, lawmakers, economic development officials and Southeast administrators attended the outdoor ceremony marking the grand opening.

The incubator is on the remodeled third floor of the Southeast Innovation Center at 920 Broadway in the former First Baptist Church education building. The center has been open for about two years. But the incubator facility on the third floor was only recently completed. The incubator has 11 office spaces totaling 4,200 square feet in which to house startup businesses.

Several businesses already are operating out of the low-rent space.

One of those is Cyber Nanny Surveillance, owned by John Brown and Wendell Hood.

From their small office, barely big enough to house two desks, Brown and Hood chatted with officials and dignitaries who visited the incubator following the ceremony. The two men have been in their office for about four months, preparing for the launch of their new business.

Hood and Brown want to sell Internet video monitoring systems to day-care centers. The systems would allow parents to view activities at the centers where their children are enrolled.

Without the incubator, they said, they would have had to spend a lot more money renting office space. The monthly rent is just a few hundred dollars and includes mail service, janitorial service and all utilities.

The business incubator allows entrepreneurs to get business advice and even access to investment capital, school officials said.

Hood said he and his partner have been given a great opportunity to succeed in business. "We cannot afford not to do it," he said.

The new company is just one example of Missouri's new businesses, school officials and political leaders say.

Small businesses are one of the fast-growing sectors in Missouri's economy, Blunt said. It is estimated that 95 percent of the more than 160,000 businesses in Missouri have fewer than 50 employees, he said.

While the incubator is new, the Innovation Center and its business and economic development staff have already helped more than 130 entrepreneurs start new businesses over the past few years, said Dennis Roedemeier, chief executive officer of the Missouri Research Corp. Missouri Research is the economic development arm of the university.

The Innovation Center was developed with nearly $1 million in state funding, nearly $300,000 in federal funding from the Delta Regional Authority and $200,000 from the Ameren Community Development Corp.

Dennis Melton, district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration in eastern Missouri, welcomed the efforts of the Innovation Center. The SBA maintains an office in the Innovation Center.

Melton said small businesses are the key to economic development today, rather than large manufacturers. "Chasing smokestacks is no longer the way to improve economic development," he said.

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