Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

April 11, 2014

Entrepreneurs must be nurtured

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Purdue University leaders have a theory. If Indiana has more entrepreneurs, its economy will be healthier. In the April 3 workshop “Transforming Your Local and Regional Economy” at the Batesville library, Dr. Michael Wilcox, Purdue Extension Economic and Community Development assistant program leader, said Purdue Center for Regional Development officials have three goals: increase the number of entrepreneurs, their survival rate and the number that create jobs and wealth.

Lionel “Bo” Beaulieu, the center’s director, said five regional employees hopefully will be hired by this summer to be resources for start-up owners. Franklin and Rush counties will be in the East District. Ripley, Decatur and Dearborn counties will be in the Southeast District.

Wilcox asked attendee Erik Tuveson, who has worked at Hill-Rom and Hillenbrand Inc., about the entrepreneurial climate here. He answered that as employees get cut, “you see people ... (wondering) ‘How do I create something that is sustainable?’” The presenter said current data shows “folks 55 and above are creating businesses.” Some are restless, others have great ideas or have an enterprise they have “always wanted to do.”

Wilcox reported southeastern Indiana is “weird. I am used to working in regions, especially a more rural community, with 25-30 percent self-employment. With you, it’s 10 percent. You have monster employers and stage 1 and 2 firms,” which employ two to 99.

He admitted, “There are many that are self-employed part time. It might not be their main source of income.”

In Franklin County, with 737 working for themselves, 2013 average salaries ranged from $11,599 for administrative, support, waste management and remediation services jobs to $78,925 for health care and social assistance positions. He pointed out that last category lost 51 percent of jobs, from 59 to 29, from 2007-12. The program leader speculated that left an opening for a home health care business to grow.

In Ripley County, with 909 self-employed, 2013 average salaries ranged from $6,884 for private educational services jobs to $70,568 for health care and social assistance employees.

Wilcox advised, “You need to create awareness about entrepreneurship.” Sometimes the political, financial or social power structure can block a budding entrepreneur.

In order for one-person businesses to bloom, “you need to have tangible support.” Leaders must guide them and offer “timely and appropriate data. They need to make good decisions.” Wilcox noted that while entrepreneurs can be passionate about their ideas, some will discover their products already have been patented or there is no desire for them.

Blayr Barnard, Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center director, said, “If they haven’t done their homework and there’s no market for their product, ... they are going to fail miserably.”

Pointing at Barnard and David Osborne, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service Ripley County director, the speaker said, “One of the best services these two people provide is to say no to people.” When presented with a weak proposal, “saying no might save that person $20,000.”

The Purdue speakers imagine a regional entrepreneurial system here that will allow new business owners “to collaborate rather than operate independently or in isolation.” Wilcox asked, “Does your community have a go-to person or places for entrepreneurs?”

According to him, “The chamber (of commerce) can play a role in this. Sometimes entrepreneurs shy away because it’s formal,” and they really like informal gatherings. He suggested it could be best for another entity, even a church, to provide the venue and invite, but then let entrepreneurs chat.

One smart idea is to connect entrepreneurs to local lenders. An extension educator offered an eight-week small business program using local experts so owners could ask questions of them later.

The speakers listed four agencies that can help create a regional entrepreneurial system: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Small Business Development Center.

Many more groups or persons might be helpful, from local economic development directors and Purdue Extension to community foundations, utility companies, local governments, United Way, 4-H and FFA.

Wilcox maintained, “If your community is not a youth-friendly community, you cannot be an entrepreneur-friendly community. You must have a quality of place that speaks to young people.” The area and its residents must engage youth or they will leave.

When asked about youth training programs, Osborne recalled Purdue offered the ag-related Ways to Grow. Sarah Lamping, Batesville community development director, remembered that years ago, Junior Achievement taught teens how to invent and market products.

Currently, Melissa Tucker, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, listed two leadership programs for the young, the Mayor’s Youth Council, for students in grades 6-12, and the chamber’s Young Professionals group. “Some of them are thinking about opening up businesses.” Wilcox observed, “Those leadership opportunities can translate into entrepreneurial opportunities.” He wants to see students have the chance to run their own businesses. “Supervised Agricultural Experiences (offered at area high schools) is a great opportunity to hone your entrepreneurial skills.” Of course, 4-H has similar programs.

Barnard recommended Indiana’s Young Entrepreneurs Program. Established as a result of the passage of House Enrolled Act 1251 in 2011, YEP assists in making business plans come to life. ISBDC, in partnership with OCRA and Indiana Economic Development Corp., works with communities to provide incentives to the college-aged entrepreneurs who dream of owning businesses. These incentives can include but are not limited to free rent, grants, loans and utility support in exchange for the entrepreneur agreeing to locate the start-up within the community, according to the ISBDC Web site.

Qualified participants must be enrolled in a state educational institution or have graduated from one within the last three years. Program coordinator Noelle Dunckel has more YEP information at 317-232-0160 or ndunckel@isbdc.org.

The free statewide Young Entrepreneurs Expo will be held Thursday, April 17, at DeveloperTown, 5255 Winthrop Ave., Indianapolis. Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to meet personally with community leaders in a trade show-style format. To register: http://bit.ly/1koahTF.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

Second in a two-part series • Part 1: Economic data from Ripley and Franklin counties was published Tuesday, April 8.