Southeast Missouri Innovation Center Opens


Business incubator component will support developing small businesses


Sept. 1, 2005 – Southeast Missouri’s first Innovation Center celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony today. The center offers business incubator space, entrepreneurial training, business development services, technical oversight and easy access to services needed by start-up entities.

The Innovation Center is a combined effort of the Missouri Research Corporation, Southeast Missouri State University, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the Missouri Technology Corporation.

The first floor of the center, which is located in the newly renovated education building of the former First Baptist Church complex at 920 Broadway, houses the Small Business Development Center, Small Business Administration, Missouri Enterprise Program and Workforce Development, which provide technical services to on-site incubating businesses as well as off-site clients. The second floor accommodates the Regional Professional Development Center, a rent-paying department of the University, which helps support operating costs of the building. The third floor will continue to be expanded to house the Innovation Center’s business incubator.

The mission of the Southeast Missouri Innovation Center is to improve the local economic strength of Southeast Missouri by creating new companies, new products, creating new investments and improving shareholder value and profitability of companies, according to Dennis Roedemeier, chief executive officer of the Missouri Research Corporation. The center will accomplish its mission by developing entrepreneurs, delivering small business services to the region, and providing an environment for small business development and growth that will produce quality, lasting employment opportunities to boost local economies, he said.

“The Innovation Center brings together three elements of economic development – capital, people and technology,” Roedemeier said. “Technology becomes an important factor at the University. The center’s incubator is the physical location for small businesses to locate to take advantage of the business finance section. The world of small business and start up business is tough; an incubator levels the playing field and allows businesses to not only be competitive, but to be competitive on a global basis,” he said.

In addition to offering a physical location for start-up businesses, the incubator will offer virtual incubator services, including business development planning, coaching, access to investment capital, SBIR proposal training, direct consulting services, offsite equipment and product testing, intern support and referrals to professional services. On-site support will include data networking, administrative assistance and access to a fitness center, as well as access to the academic resources of Southeast Missouri State University.

Tenants of the incubator will realize enormous benefits from the availability of on-site services and have a much greater likelihood of sustainability compared to small businesses that start up outside the incubator, according to business incubator research over the past three decades, Roedemeier said.

The Innovation Center business plan mirrors the three areas of focus by the State of Missouri, specifically life science, information technology and advanced manufacturing. Target markets are potential entrepreneurs, especially minorities and women, with concepts for developing businesses related to one of the three focus areas, Roedemeier said. The development and growth of technical businesses and industries through the Southeast Innovation Center will positively affect the local economy, he said.

The Innovation Center also could play a key role in the State of Missouri’s Life Sciences state plan to become “The World’s Life Science Gateway.”

Southeast is looking towards becoming a cooperative partner with the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis and state research universities, with Southeast focusing on applied research, commercializations and applications that would provide a boost for economic and workforce development. The Innovation Center, with its business incubator component, would allow science, agriculture and business faculty and students the opportunity to participate in applied research. In addition, it would expand the current pool of plant sciences and agricultural jobs in the state, as well as around the Cape Girardeau area.

The center joins four existing centers in the state, located in St. Louis, Columbia, Rolla and Kansas City, and will be part of the University’s interface with the Missouri Life Sciences initiative. Southeast is a member of the Research Alliance of Missouri which includes all of the major research universities in the state.

The all-important agriculture industry in the Southeast Missouri region, which is responsible for nearly 40 percent of the state’s agricultural production but constantly looking for new products and innovations to raise farm income, also will benefit through the creation and enhancement of agriculture initiatives developed at the Innovation Center. Plant science inventions from this center will help meet national and international goals related to improving nutrition and health, feeding a growing world population, improving agriculture profitability, and preserving the soil and environment.

The opening of the Innovation Center will allow approximately 100 life science companies already operating in Missouri, as well as start-up firms developing innovative crops and products in the life sciences, to use the center and the University’s contacts to arrange field-based testing and other research on the farms of Southeast Missouri. In addition, St. Louis based companies and universities with national and international reputations in basic life science research will find at the center applied research partners and trained technologists to assist with the testing and application of these research findings.