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Chamber expanding space, plans for training center

by Sally Carroll Special to the McDonald County Press | January 19, 2023 at 8:26 a.m.
Submitted photo McDonald County Chamber of Commerce officials are expanding the Pineville location to encompass the space next door. Officials want to utilize the additional space as an Entrepreneurial and Innovation Incubator center.

McDonald County Chamber of Commerce officials are planning for an expansion that will pay dividends in the future.

Officials have announced that the chamber is securing the building next door to its Pineville location, growing its square footage, and acquiring space that will enable training, classes and workshops.

Chamber officials will use the 1,500-square-foot space as an "Entrepreneurial and Innovation Incubator" center.

Chamber president and CEO John Newby said the space next door is not dependent upon grant approval.

"That said, a grant approval does move up the timetable of completion. But even if the current grant request is turned down, there are other grants we can apply for, and we can also raise money locally to make the project and initiative come to life," he said.

Officials said such a facility is "rare" for a county or community the size of McDonald County, but is a needed resource.

"It is imperative that we provide all the resources at our disposal to assure we can provide our members a greater value which, in turn, creates greater value throughout the county," according to a recent newsletter article.

Once plans are firmed up, classes could begin in the second half of the year.

Newby said the new center's benefits would be far-reaching.

"Ultimately, it will be a valuable resource for current business owners so they can draw from training, classes and seminars," he said.

"But just as importantly, it will be a resource for budding and aspiring entrepreneurs that want to take one of their passions and turn it into a dream come true."

Since coming on board last year, Newby has implemented ideas such as publishing a weekly newsletter, emphasizing membership benefits and connecting businesses across the county.

He's also started a new magazine, Our Ozarks, created and placed new advertisements, and is bringing people together through the McDonald County Leadership Coalition, which is comprised of local mayors, county commissioners, and business leaders. The group recently discussed branding for McDonald County.

"For far too long, it was felt among the group that we have allowed the outside world, those from NWA, Joplin and elsewhere to paint the picture of who we are and what we have to offer," according to a recent newsletter. "That being the case, it was felt that we needed to develop and foster our own McDonald County brand and then promote that brand far and wide."

The chamber also hosts a lunch and learn on the second Wednesday of the month.

All the programs and activities are working in tandem to provide McDonald County businesses with several benefits.

"Businesses, both current and future, have so many different obstacles and opportunities. Our goal and mission are to have many programs and initiatives going at the same time so that we can provide them resources regardless of their varied needs," Newby said.

"I can say that we are only at the beginning of this journey, and we will be announcing many new initiatives in the coming months."

The response has been positive. Newby intends to deliver on the projects and maintain trust.

"We are in for some difficult economic times in the next few years. It is now more important than ever that we step up and provide the assistance they and the community need," Newby said.

"The Chamber is for everyone, it is a community organization, and we would like to contribute to the ultimate success of the entire county in the coming years," he said.

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