North Mississippi enterprise centers help turn business dreams into success stories
By Becky Gillette
Just like baby chicks, sometimes entrepreneurs just need a little incubating. They can get just that at business incubators in Oxford, Batesville and Grenada operated by the non-profit North Mississippi Enterprise Initiative (NMEI), a public/private regional partnership designed to support entrepreneurship within the region. Holly Kelly has seen many successful business launches since becoming executive director of NMEI eight years ago. “The incubator has really made a difference,” she said. “The thing I love is watching people fulfill their dreams of having a successful business that they started from the ground-up on their own. Our mission is to help small businesses develop, grow and succeed so that they may make a positive, lasting economic impact.”That impact can be particularly significant when businesses grow quite large like Oxford graduate Nextgear Solutions (nextgearsolutions.com), which was in the business incubator for about four years before graduating about a year ago. It specializes in a software programs for businesses renovation contractors such as Servicemaster Restores. They have grown from seven employees when they started at the incubator to about 80 workers. “We were struggling to find something affordable that would meet our needs in Oxford,”said Scottye Carter-Dewey, director of operations for Nextgear. “We felt Holly and Oxford Enterprise Center were sent to us at the perfect time. They really worked with us when we needed the help. It allowed us to stop focusing on things like paying the rent and instead focus on growing the business. It was definitely a big help for us. When I started in 2008, I was the third employee. Sometimes I look around and wonder what in the world happened.”Kelly said one of the main misconceptions is that they offer free or cheap space. Rents are comparable with the surrounding area, but they do not require a deposit and can be flexible with their lease terms. Normally leases are for 12 months, but can be for a shorter or longer period of time. There is no outside funding for operating expenses. Those are paid for by the tenants’rent. Initial funding to construct the buildings in 1997-98 was provided by grants from TVA, the Mississippi Development Authority, and each particular city or and county. Space is only part of what the business incubators do to help people successfully launch their business. “We provide assistance in developing a network of local business contacts, introducing our tenants to board members who may be able to help identify possible business opportunities, as well as working closely with the small business development and workforce development centers at Ole Miss, Northwest Community College and Holmes Community College,” Kelly said. “We also help host and provide information on educational seminars that cover a variety of topics helpful to small businesses.”The Batesville Enterprise Center located in the Harmon-Craig Industrial Park at 275 Nosef Drive is about 20,000 square feet. Currently there are two tenants in the building: Hogan Trucking occupies warehouse as well as office space. Northwest Community
College Workforce Development has a training lab located in the office area, and a manufacturing training lab located in a warehouse space. A third tenant is set to come on board in February. The Grenada Enterprise Center is located in the industrial park on Papermill Rd. The building is 20,000 square feet and houses two tenants: GL Assemblies and Flinn Communications. The Oxford Enterprise Center is a 40,000-square-foot building and is located at 9 Industrial Park Dr. There are fifteen tenants in the building. Some of those tenants include Elliott Logic, Miltec Research and Technology, Logan Development Group, BRAVE Communication, and Titanium Services. There is office and warehouse space available at all three locations. For more info and\or a tour, contact Kelly at email@example.com or 662-281-0720.