St. Joseph’s enclave of small business owners earned a large measure of support and interest in their long-term welfare Thursday.
Celebrating its fifth year this month, Missouri Western State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship held a gathering of its council members at the Hoof N Horn restaurant, with partner agencies and local government leaders in attendance. The purpose in part was to highlight the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem — the local network of supporters and entities that help fulfill the aspirations of small-business owners.
Annette Weeks, the center’s director, told the audience of several dozen that the council meets monthly to discuss matters related to the growing level of entrepreneurship now seen routinely in St. Joseph.
“Entrepreneurs, as you well know, are important to our economy,” Weeks told News-Press NOW. “They’re the job creators. It (entrepreneurship) gives us the identity.”
She said the meeting also was held to allow members to hear updates on each other’s activities across the city, and to find out what gaps and opportunities still exist for entrepreneurs that must still be addressed to improve the climate for business. Of the 5,000 businesses in Buchanan County, slightly more than 80 percent employ no more than nine people, she added. St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce officials say about 80 percent of its membership are small businesses.
“If you don’t have that entrepreneurial spirit, it’s difficult for you to go out and succeed,” said new Missouri Western State University President Matt Wilson.
The Buchanan County commissioners also attended with a reminder of the county’s long-standing support of economic development through entrepreneurship.
“They’ve been able to hold different groups together,” said Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer of the center. “They create opportunities.”
Weeks said she has coached 585 entrepreneurs in the center’s brief history. She termed client coaching as the center’s top priority.
Those attending were asked to list what they perceive as gaps or opportunities facing entrepreneurs. City Councilmember Brian Myers said St. Joseph could take advantage of a state need for a medical marijuana plant testing facility, which he said would help ensure government standards are met.
Mayor Bill McMurray encouraged the partners to prepare for the coming land bank, which he said would assist potential investors with financing their projects.
An urban planning committee also was mentioned as an item to place on the list.