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As a community, Springfield has taken deliberate steps to build its entrepreneurial ecosystem. Already known for start-ups that have become national brands—Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation, Jack Henry & Associates—the Springfield region has long been supportive of entrepreneurs, but a renewed focus is helping the effort gain steam and garner national attention.
Recently, Springfield was named a “Best City to Start a Business” by small business financial resource, WalletHub. In the ranking, Springfield placed 24th out of the 150 largest metros and was included in the Top 5 in three of the 14 metrics used in the study--most small business lending, lowest cost of living, and cheapest office space. This ranking showcases Springfield’s competitive position when it comes to the success of start-ups.
In addition, The eFactory at Missouri State University recently received national attention. The business incubator has become the front door for our region’s entrepreneurial community, bringing a multitude of small business support services under one roof. Earlier this month, it was announced that The eFactory will receive the 2014 Community Impact Award by Trade & Industry Development magazine.
The eFactory is one of 15 projects in the country to be recognized and one of three in the state of Missouri. Each of the projects has one thing in common: their investments are causing a chain reaction in their areas. For example, when The eFactory was created, Missouri State University redeveloped the former Willow Brook Foods plant and now is projected to create 650 jobs and facilitate the investment of $30 million in small business over the next five years.
The eFactory was designed to be more than a business incubator though—it’s a microcosm of entrepreneurial activity. When a group of business leaders secured a license to bring the Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups program to Springfield, they looked no further than The eFactory as a venue to connect entrepreneurs. The 1 Million Cups program launched in Springfield to a steady crowd of 100-150 people gathering each week. The group hears presentations from two different entrepreneurs and builds Springfield’s culture of entrepreneurship.
This launch, according to the Kauffman Foundation, was one of the best the organization has had since the program began. Kauffman, an organization with entrepreneurship at its core, identified Springfield as a leading mid-sized metro for start-up activity in a study published in November 2013. Kauffman Senior Analyst, Jared Konczal, featured Springfield in his study on cities with high post-recession start-up rates. During his evaluation Konczal wrote, “we note that of the three MSAs that are above the year-to-year changes the most, Springfield, MO experiences the strongest recovery of any MSA in this cohort.”
The ranking, the award, and the study all validate what we already know, and others are beginning to recognize—Springfield is an entrepreneurial community!