People you should know/Buz Sutherland

Monday, June 3, 2002

  • Age: 52

    Key responsibilities: The Small Business Development Center at Southeast Missouri State University assists new and existing businesses meet business management and operational challenges and opportunities by linking the resources of the university to the small business community in the 19-county service area, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. The three primary functions are: 1) serve as a small business resource center, 2) provide small business training opportunities and 3) provide one-on-one confidential business management counseling.

    How long have you lived in the area? I live in Charleston, Mo., and have for 38 years.

    Original hometown: Charleston, Mo.

    Education: Bachelor of science, 1972, University of Missouri-Columbia; basic industrial development course, 1974, Texas A&M University; Industrial Development Institute, 1976-1980, University of Oklahoma; certified economic development finance professional, National Development Council.

    Community involvement: I was a member of the Cape Girardeau Vision 2000 Community Council for nine years and currently serve on the Vision 2020 Council. For 12 years, I have been a member of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council. I have been a member of the Southeast Missouri Workforce Investment Board for nine years. In addition, I am a member of the World Trade Center-St. Louis, the Southeast Missouri Tourism Advisory Council, the Mississippi County Port Authority and a charter member of the Missouri Economic Development Council.

    Professional background: After graduating from college, I worked for the state of Missouri facilitating a grant program that financed outdoor recreational facilities in the state. In 1973, I moved to the Missouri Division of Commerce and Industrial Development as a community betterment specialist. For a time, I was executive director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. I left Jackson to return to the Division of Commerce and Industrial Development as a project manager in the industrial development section. In 1982, I bought and operated Sutherland Oil Co., a complete line petroleum jobbership in Charleston. I sold the business in 1989. My wife and I operated another business, but my first love was economic development. In 1990, I was offered and accepted the position as director of the Small Business Development Center.

    Name a Cape Girardeau businessperson you admire and why: I have two individuals: the late Woody Rushing, Rushing Machine Corp., and Bob Hendrix, retired Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce executive. I had the pleasure of working with Rushing, putting together the application to create the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority right after the port authority enabling legislation was passed by the 1974 General Assembly. He helped me see the true economic development potential that lay in the 1,200 miles of navigable river in Missouri. He knew more about river commerce than anyone I had worked for before or since. He showed me by example that kindness, consideration for others and a sense of humor are valuable business attributes. Bob Hendrix, before his retirement, was one of the most respected industrial and economic development professionals in Missouri. Economic development professionals statewide sought his advice and counsel, serving as a senior counsel for the Missouri Economic Development Council. I had the privilege of working with Bob on a number of projects over the years, and every time I learned and grew professionally from the experience. Bob Hendrix's name still comes up when we old-timers in industrial development get together. Bob is a pleasure to know.

    Last book read: "The Salesman of the Century" by Ron Popeil.

    What did you want to be when you were a child? As a farm kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian.

    How did you chose this career? Being a productive member of the community and a strong sense of community was always important to me. Working with small business and entrepreneurs has been the most satisfying career I can imagine.

    What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome and how? In 1984, when I was in the oil business in Charleston, our office and warehouse burned to the ground when Tammy and I had only been married three months. This happened on a Saturday morning. Through the kindness, hard work and sacrifice of family, friends and customers and even my competitors, we were back in business first thing Monday morning. The golden rule is as important in business as it is in our personal lives.

    What advice would you give someone new in your field? Economic development is a great career for a young person. I would encourage someone considering economic development to take advantage of every professional development opportunity available to them. Go to the schools, to the institutes, to the seminars and the workshops. Perhaps most important, seek the counsel of experienced and knowledgeable economic development professionals.

    Hobbies and interests: I have never lost my farm-boy appetite. My hobby -- no, my obsession -- is to identify and experience great eating establishments throughout our region.

    Accomplishments you're most proud of: This is a work in progress. My life's goal is to be an asset to my family, my community and my country.

    Secret ambition: I want to be a great philanthropist after I win the lottery.

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