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Springfield’s entrepreneurial ecosystem garners national attention

As a community, Springfield has taken deliberate steps to build its entrepreneurial ecosystem. Already known for startups that have become national brands—Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC), Jack Henry & Associates—the Springfield region has long been supportive of entrepreneurs, but a renewed focus is helping the effort gain steam and garnering 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 advantage for the success of startups.

The eFactory at Missouri State University has also 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,Trade & Industry Development magazine announced that The eFactory will receive the 2014 Community Impact Award. The eFactory is one of fifteen 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. When Missouri State University looked to create The eFactory, they turned to downtown Springfield, redeveloping the former Willow Brook Foods plant into usable office and lab space now projected to create 650 jobs and facilitate $30M in small business investment over the next five years.

The eFactory is more than a business incubator though—it’s a microcosm of entrepreneurial activity. When a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders brought Kauffman Foundation’s1 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 with a record crowd of 150 people, with steady attendance of more than 100 each week to hear presentations from entrepreneurs. By providing a way for presenters to engage with the larger community, 1 Million Cups is fostering Springfield’s culture of entrepreneurship.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, Springfield’s 1 Million Cups launch was among the best in the country since the program began. Kauffman, a Kansas City-based organization with entrepreneurship at its core, identified Springfield as a leading mid-sized metro for startup activity in a study published in November 2013. Jared Konczal, a senior analyst at Kauffman, 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 WalletHub ranking, the Trade & Industry Development award, and the Kauffman study all validate what we already know, and others are beginning to recognize: Springfield is truly an entrepreneurial community!