Competing with nearly 200 applications from around the nation, the grant investment was announced last week and will support a new project initiative set to launch across the Southern Missouri Innovation Network to increase the tech startup pipeline through education boot camps, incubators, accelerators, increased access to capital, mentoring, and cross-pollinating programs to generate more regional economic impact.
“We’re humbled to have been selected, “ said Chris Carnell, Executive Director of the Codefi Foundation on Rural Innovation. “We work diligently to be the best stewards of any public funding entrusted to us. From past successes, we can confidently say the region will see a significant return on this investment in the coming years with more companies and more high-wage jobs being created.”
The Southern Missouri Innovation Network (Innovate SOMO) was founded by the Codefi Foundation on Rural Innovation and the efactory at Missouri State University, two of the state’s most successful innovation hubs. The objective of Innovate SOMO, the first-of-its-kind and largest regional business and workforce network in the state’s history, is to accelerate tech-based economic development across 47 predominantly rural and historically distressed counties.
“We are excited to combine our strengths and expertise with our partners at Codefi and the network partners in communities throughout Southern Missouri, to help more entrepreneurs start and grow the leading companies of the future,” said Rachel Anderson, Director of the efactory. “This new innovation network will connect, strengthen and add new resources and services immediately that would otherwise be impossible to build independently. I am more excited for the future and what’s next for our region than ever before.”
Innovate SOMO builds upon a prior EDA award to Codefi that helped 30 new tech companies, raise an additional $20 million in follow-on capital, and create over 150 jobs in three years. Innovate SOMO launched with commitments from over 100 leading companies and stakeholders from 12 communities. By combining and scaling existing successful programs and resources, these partnerships aim to close opportunity gaps that historically prevent disadvantaged entrepreneurs and workers in Southern Missouri from prospering in a tech economy.
“EDA is proud to partner with this year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grantees as they invest in entrepreneurs and create equitable access to capital in their communities,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “These projects will give the next generation of industry-leading companies a seminal boost that will result in job creation and private investment – potentially transforming a regional economy and creating economic opportunity beyond what we can forsee.”
About Innovate SOMO
Innovate SOMO is a first-of-its-kind regional partnership launched in the Spring of 2022 to transform entrepreneurial support and digital talent development across southern Missouri. The network collective combines the expertise and resources of two of the state’s most successful innovation hubs with community and business partners to accelerate job growth and support the next generation of industry-leading, high-growth companies in the 47 counties in Southern Missouri.
The network was initially supported by grant awards from the Missouri Technology Corporation and over 100 leading companies and stakeholders in the region. It includes strategic partnerships with over a dozen communities and the Missouri Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, Jordan Valley Innovation Center, Crowder College, Missouri State University, Missouri State University-West Plains, Three Rivers College, Southeast Missouri State University, Community Foundation of the Ozarks, as well as support from workforce development, economic development, and Chambers of Commerce across the region.