The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded Downtown West Plains, Inc. a $672,870 grant for an expansion of the Ozark Small Business Incubator (OzSBI).
The EDA investment will help the incubator expand its service offerings, and support regional economic development efforts aimed at revitalizing the seven-county area served by OzSBI and providing more job opportunities.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams said in a release announcing the grant that providing opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish in distressed communities is core to EDA’s mission and values.
Assistant Secretary Williams added that this EDA grant will expand critical assistance for local entrepreneurs as they work to launch new businesses and create jobs in the Ozark region.
Apart from the regional impact of enhanced OzSBI services, the EDA investment also supports West Plains economic development since the OzSBI is housed in the former Butler Furniture Building. This is a historic structure that is more than a century old and is located in the historical district in Downtown West Plains.
The EDA grant enables the building’s historic preservation by rehabilitating and renovating the existing space to accommodate the expansion of OzSBI’s programs and services.
EDA’s investment furthermore leverages available local funding, because the grantee already has other local partners committed to supporting this project. This includes financial support from banks, and a partnership from Missouri State University-West Plains.
The renovation includes 9,200 square feet on the building’s second floor and building upgrades that will combine to create more usable spaces for offices, break rooms and conference space. The project also includes fiber layout to provide more reliable IT services to the incubator’s clients.
The Ozark Small Business Incubator was launched in Jan 2012 after a long process that began in 2005. Back in April 2005, the SBA named the West Plains area as the top new business creator in Missouri. Downtown West Plains, Inc. immediately established a committee to look into the feasibility of an incubator that could help these new businesses and entrepreneurs be successful and grow their business.
OzSBI now provides startups and entrepreneurs not just mentorship and office space, but also assistance with business training and development, and with marketing and promotion counseling. Not to mention networking opportunities that can help start and grow a business, and access to capital up to $25,000. This is from a revolving loan fund, and the funding can be used as a secondary loan or gap financing to supplement start-up capital or a bank loan.