University Receives $400,000 Grant to Launch Entrepreneurial Development Initiative



Jan. 7, 2005 – Officials with the Missouri Innovation Center at Southeast Missouri State University and the Missouri Division of Workforce Development today announced plans to launch the Southeast Missouri Entrepreneurial Development Initiative thanks to a $400,000 Workforce Development grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Division of Workforce Development.

The announcement was made today by Rick Beasley, director of the Missouri Division of Workforce Development at a news conference on the Southeast campus.

The initiative, set to begin later this month, is a proactive, aggressive and innovative strategy to create jobs, self-employment opportunities and personal financial resources, said Dennis Roedemeier, director of the Southeast Missouri State University Innovation Center. He said the project will facilitate a group of programs and services to support entrepreneurial development in southeast Missouri.

“This has been my dream for many, many years,” Roedemeier said. “I’ve been wanting to put a program in place like this for the past 20 years.”

He said the project will provide business management and entrepreneurial training for individuals interested in starting business ventures and assisting existing businesses enhance their  business management skills and, therefore, their chances for success. The project also will offer technical support and training for budding entrepreneurs, business management counseling, faculty and student resources and business incubator space.

Enrollment in the program is open to the public but is especially designed for low to moderate income individuals, including recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), women, minorities and entrepreneurial college students. Roedemeier said the Missouri Research Corporation will work closely with the Southeast Missouri Workforce Investment Board and Missouri Division of Workforce Development to deliver this program to dislocated workers in southeast Missouri.

The initiative calls for the Missouri Research Corporation in collaboration with the Southeast Innovation Center, the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Harrison College of Business to provide entrepreneurial and business management training to residents throughout the region interested in entrepreneurship using curricula called “FastTrac First Steps” and “FastTrac New Venture” developed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Two specialized curricula, namely, “FastTrac Developing Your Family Child Care Business” and “NxLevel Tilling the Soil of Opportunity,” a specialized value added agriculture curriculum, also will be offered.

The training will be available through Southeast’s main campus in Cape Girardeau, the four area higher education centers in Perryville, Sikeston, Malden and Kennett, and the University of Missouri Extension Telecommunication Community Resource Centers in Portageville, Poplar Bluff and Park Hills. Roedemeier said the entrepreneurial training will virtually “blanket” southeast Missouri.

Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, said the Southeast Missouri Entrepreneurial Development Initiative will go a long way towards boosting the economic viability of the region.

“We would like to thank the Missouri Division of Workforce Development for partnering with the Missouri Research Corporation to assist would-be entrepreneurs in this part of the state. This initiative supports a ‘grow your own’ strategy for business development by underpinning a nurturing environment for entrepreneurship through business management and technical support services. Job creation, capital investment and basic economic opportunity are absolutely critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and allowing the southeast Missouri region to realize its great potential. Entrepreneurship, enhanced by this project, is a pathway to that bright future.”

Buz Sutherland, director of the Small Business Development Center at Southeast, said six graduate assistants from Southeast’s MBA program will work as “business coaches” and will be assigned to individual entrepreneurs. The coaches will monitor their progress and facilitate their access to entrepreneurial and small business resources at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The business coaches will ‘hold the hands’ of the aspiring entrepreneurs as they work through the planning and implementation stages of their business concept,” Sutherland said.

The coaches, he added,  will help link the entrepreneurs to the resources and services of the Missouri Research Corporation; the Small Business Development Center (SBDC); technical services and training such as laboratory testing, packaging, prototype development and sourcing; graduate and undergraduate internships; faculty supervised student team projects; the Management Assistance Program, a hands-on Harrison College of Business faculty outreach program; and access to the Southeast Innovation Center Business Incubator and the Shared-Use Commercial Kitchen for specialty and gourmet food products.

Sutherland said the SBDC, as a unit of the Southeast Innovation Center, is a small business resource with a lending and reference library, a U.S. Census Data Center, a satellite office of the World Trade Center-St. Louis and a U.S. Small Business Administration Satellite Business Information Center. He said all of the SBDC’s resources and services will be available at no cost to entrepreneurs who participate in this initiative.

Roedemeier said the Missouri Research Corporation will provide detailed specialized training via three-hour classes on marketing, finance and accounting, procurement, international trade, personnel policy and family business issues. He said University faculty and small business resource partners will serve as instructors.Entrepreneurs also will participate in four customized workshops to be delivered in three locations around the region. Experts will provide the forums on “Women and Minority Business Development,” “How to Bring a New Product/Service to the Market,” “Value-Added Agriculture as a Business Opportunity” and “Worldwide Web Based Business Development Strategies.”

The program also will encourage area banks to give special commercial loan consideration to participants who successfully complete the entrepreneurial training curriculum, Roedemeier said.