CIE, DRA Present Microenterprise Workshops in Eight Delta States

by News Bureau on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 12, 2011 — The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University, together with the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), completed a series of training workshops in September to introduce organizations in eight Mississippi Delta states to the tools and training resources needed to jump-start their microenterprise development efforts.

A total of 204 local leaders representing more than 160 organizations participated in the workshops titled “Accelerating Entrepreneurship in the Delta,” which focused on the importance of entrepreneurship as a solution to accelerate job creation and improve economic conditions in rural Delta communities.

DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said, “Small businesses are the future of the Delta economy. Not only are entrepreneurs leading the way with cutting-edge ideas to grow the economy tomorrow, they are the ones who are creating the good-paying jobs of today. We are proud to partner with the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University and initiatives such as Operation Jump Start and ACCION Delta to help more small businesses grow and blossom.”

“We were very fortunate to receive a grant from the United States Small Business Administration to reach out to microenterprise development organizations in the greater Delta region to share best practices and offer certification training to allow an increased number of organizations to deliver the nationally recognized Operation JumpStart program,” stated Dr. James Stapleton, executive director of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and associate professor of management at Southeast. “We were pleased to partner with the Delta Regional Authority, and we were very pleased with the turn-out for these workshops. Our goal was to train 70 organizations, but that was far exceeded. The participation by more than 200 Delta leaders indicates the interest in entrepreneurship as a driver for stronger communities and job creation.”

Members of the Delta Leadership Network, the DRA’s specially trained leadership institute alumni, were instrumental in coordinating the workshops.

“I was particularly impressed by all the collaboration that was sparked among the participants,” remarked Pablo Diaz, who intends to build a microenterprise development program since attending the workshop held in Grenada Miss.

Diaz, who is the executive director of the Development District in Grenada, enjoyed the opportunity to focus on strategies to encourage new start-ups in rural communities. “This program will work in the Mississippi Delta,” he observed.

The Accelerating Entrepreneurship in the Delta workshops were conducted in rural communities in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

“In each community we visited, the participants were very enthusiastic about the prospect of sustainable community growth through new business start-ups and the expansion of microenterprises,” Stapleton said, adding, “One of our goals was to create a network of microenterprise development professionals in the Delta who will continue to collaborate and be champions for the Operation JumpStart methods.”

Each of the workshops included presentations by partners from ACCION Texas Inc., the nation’s largest non-profit microfinance company, to promote microfinance options for small and emerging businesses.

“The availability of affordable capital is often identified as a barrier to new and developing small business ventures,” stated Janie Barrera, president and CEO of ACCION Texas Inc. “We are committed to empowering diverse individuals and assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses to gain access to capital and the practical knowledge to operate a business.”

Mike Marshall, alternate federal co-chairman of the DRA, traveled to all eight sessions as a presenter. His mission was to educate participants on the value of the Delta Regional Authority as a resource for rural regions.

“It was great seeing individuals I have worked with through the DRA, and helping others learn more about the DRA and its priority of improving entrepreneurial activity and business development in the region,” he said. “If we all work together, we can maximize our resources and impact in the Delta region.”

Lori Cox, associate dean of Workforce Development at Southeastern Illinois College and a participant in the Accelerating Entrepreneurship in the Delta workshop conducted Aug. 9-11 in Harrisburg, Ill., commended the program.

“This training will allow many rural areas in southern Illinois to offer Operation JumpStart to potential and existing business owners that otherwise would not have access to this fabulous training,” she said.

The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University is one of the most comprehensive entrepreneurship-focused university centers in the Midwest, offering a wide array of academic and outreach programs and services, including: innovation development and research; entrepreneurship education, training and mentorship; and business incubation and development services. The CIE supports Southeast Missouri State University’s strategic priority to advance the region’s economic appeal and strength by accelerating local and regional economic growth and development that improves the quality of lives, communities and businesses in southeast Missouri and the surrounding region. For more information, visit: www.semo.edu/cie.