Rogers State University and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College have been awarded a $120,000 grant that will assist in the establishment of business incubators in northeastern Oklahoma, as well as develop online entrepreneurship training to serve as catalysts for economic development.
The Rural Oklahoma Virtual Entrepreneurship Training Program and Incubator Network will be initiated through the grant provided by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
RSU, through its Center for Economic and Community Development, will work with NEO to provide online entrepreneurship training accessible through the Internet. The schools will provide business incubator facilities at locations in Bartlesville, Claremore and Miami. Additional incubator facilities are planned for Grove and Vinita.
The purpose of business incubator programs is to provide resources and services that enable new or expanding companies to become more successful. The goal is to produce graduating companies within three years that emerge from the program as growing and financially viable entities.
In Bartlesville, RSU will provide incubator space at its new downtown campus, located in the former Reda Building at Fourth Street and Dewey Avenue. RSU will provide incubator facilities in Claremore at its Center for Economic and Community Development building, which is slated to be completed this fall on the Claremore campus.
The cities of Miami, Grove and Vinita will provide physical incubator facilities in their respective communities.
The purpose of the project is to create additional job opportunities in northeastern Oklahoma to help retain and attract more young adults to the region, said RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley.
Local economic development officials believe the incubator program will provide an ideal platform that will provide both short-term and long-term benefits to their communities.
“We enthusiastically support the incubator program being initiated through Rogers State University,” said Jim Fram, President/CEO of the Bartlesville Development Corporation. “This will provide opportunities for ideas from our best and brightest to develop into successful and profitable businesses.”
Mike Strotheide, Executive Director of the Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority, noted that companies that have graduated from an incubator environment are more likely to be successful than those that have not had that experience and support.
“Having an incubator in Claremore will be an asset for us and boost for the economic development efforts of the area by providing another tool to utilize which will help create jobs,” he said.
Jim Genandt, Dean of the School of Human Environmental Sciences at NEO, said the partnership between the two schools is a “natural one.” While NEO can offer basic workforce and business training, RSU can provide more advanced assistance with small business development and entrepreneurship resources. When established, the facilities will offer residents in Ottawa County assistance in researching ideas for new businesses or expansion of current businesses and support to develop solid business plans.
“This allows the two institutions to share limited resources with a broader population in northeast Oklahoma,” Genandt said.
Dr. Ray Brown, RSU vice president for economic and community development, will oversee the project.
“There are no shortages of people who want to start new businesses, and in fact many of them do start businesses,” Brown said. “However, due to inadequate knowledge and insufficient capital, most businesses fail within the first few years. Potential entrepreneurs need training and technical assistance if they are going to be successful.”
Key components of the program include online entrepreneurship training, establishment of rural incubators and support services for the local facilities, an assessment of rural communities that identifies the potential to develop niche industries, and a technology scouting program to identify promising areas for product development.
A unique part of the project will focus on “technology scouting,” in which staff will seek emerging technologies that could be utilized in rural communities, he said. These innovative ideas and technologies then would be shared with entrepreneurs and rural community leaders so that new developments could be matched with identified community strengths and interested entrepreneurs for the purpose of creating new products or services.
The online entrepreneurship training program will be developed by RSU, which has been a national pioneer in distance learning and was the first university in Oklahoma to offer degree programs entirely online. The entrepreneur program will include a short, intensive non-credit program followed by online instruction and mentoring. Program enrollment will be open entry and exit, rather than semester-length, to allow for a steady flow of participants through the program.
RSU’s staff and faculty will provide instruction and assistance to the potential entrepreneurs. Those who proceed in starting a business will receive technical assistance and mentoring from staff and faculty from RSU and NEO. RSU will provide the overall management of these facilities in coordination with NEO.
For more information, please contact the RSU Center for Economic and Community Development at (918) 343-7533.