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Science and the Environment

Downtown 'Plaster Center' Set for January 2013 Completion

IDEA Commons is Missouri State University’s Urban Innovations Park, designed to help local businesses and students collaborate and network. Inside an old processing facility downtown, the university is working to see creative minds join forces and help small businesses grow. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe has this update on the project.

The demolition process inside the old Willow Brook processing facility downtown is now done…and that leads the way to move forward with the new Plaster Center. The center will house the cooperative Engineering program as well as Small Business and Technology Development. This old poultry and turkey processing facility saw a layoff of over 1000 workers several years ago, but soon will be home to job development and growth.

What’s unique about the Plaster Center is the business incubator, also called the E-Factory. Allen Kunkel, Associate Vice President of Economic Development at Missouri State, says entrepreneurs in the early stages of building their businesses will be able to network with engineering and business students.

“Once you’re in an incubator, you are there for three to five years to get started up, and get to a point where you can be successful. Then obviously grow out or graduate from the incubator, and then obviously continue to operate your business in the community or the region. We’re going to continue to spur new business enterprises and create additional jobs over time, as well as give students opportunities to learn in that environment and be able to pick up some real world experience,” he said.

It’s this real world experience that Kunkel thinks many students desire instead of the traditional classroom. And it’s this entrepreneurship that he says many people are turning to in a bad economy.

“You’re seeing more and more people taking the risk and becoming their own entrepreneur, running their own business. Whether they’re unemployed or underemployed, this is an opportunity for them to build themselves up, take it by the bootstraps and move forward. So I think you’ve actually seen a bigger emphasis and a bigger response on the incubator portion over time,” he said.

The 110,000 square foot facility will be completed by January of 2013. By then, Kunkel expects more than 1000 students to be active in IDEA Commons. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.