Nixon talked with six Southeast Missouri small-business owners at Main Street Flooring about the challenges they're facing and ways the state can help.
"Sometimes the big deals get everybody real excited -- the 800 jobs via IBM coming to Columbia or $55 million investment by DuPont-Pioneer down in the Bootheel for a new seed facility," Nixon said. "But when you look at this deeper, you understand that the real engine of this economy is small businesses. It's people who are willing to be entrepreneurs."
Missouri received $27 million in federal funding through the State Small Business Credit Initiative. A new $10 million Grow Missouri Loan Participation Fund will be coordinated by the Missouri Department of Economic Development and begins accepting applications today online at www.Mo.gov.
A second program, Missouri IDEA Seed and Venture Capital Funds will provide $16.9 million to develop science and technology businesses. This program is administered by the Missouri Technology Corp.
Nixon expects to generate $10 in new private lending for every $1 in federal funding.
Small-business owners who met with Nixon represented a range of industries including retail, technology and housing development. They had all worked with the University of Missouri Extension Center's Small Business Development Center in Jackson.
Their biggest challenge is getting the capital to help their businesses grow, they said.
Business startups face higher interest rates than established firms. The Grow Missouri Loan program will offer zero percent interest to women- and minority-owned businesses and a 2 percent interest rate for other applicants.
The Grow Missouri loan program will provide loans of up to $3 million to businesses with fewer than 500 employees in an effort to both attract enterprises and help existing companies expand.
The roundtable included Gary Beckett of Xtreme Stereo in Kennett, Mo.; Mark Lester of Gertis, Lester & Dameron and Associates engineering firm in Cape Girardeau; Lonnie Chapman of Gaming Grounds in Jackson; Shaun Swift of GFD Properties LLC in Jackson; Mark Caruso of American Wireless Inc., a rural wireless broadband company in Jackson; and Donna Cook of Main Street Flooring in Jackson.
David Kerr, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development and Richard Proffer, business development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension also took part in the roundtable discussion.
Several of the business owners said they'd worked in their industry for others before stepping out to start their own companies.
Cook worked at Main Street Flooring and bought it from her previous employer. Now, she's looking to expand to a larger building and add employees, but it is challenging, she said.
"I can't remember the last time I had a day off. I don't mind working hard, but sometimes I just need a little help," she said.
The newest business owner to take part in the discussion was Lonnie Chapman, who started a video game sales and rental store, Gaming Grounds, on Main Street in Jackson just two weeks ago.
Nixon said he chose to make this loan program announcement in Jackson because he was inspired by stories of small businesses in that community as they looked at business models around the state.
"There are entrepreneurs here that have solid ideas and if we can give them the tools to move forward with their business plans, they're going to grow," he said. "I also want to reflect on people that small and mid-sized towns are a great place to live. Shopping locally at small businesses is just a really good thing. You get great service from them in a world where we are seeing a great deal of commerce done on the Internet."
615 W. Main St., Jackson, MO