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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

UNIVERSITY OFFICIALS SIGN GRANT AGREEMENTS MAKING DELTA REGIONAL AUTHORITY GRANTS OFFICIAL

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Feb. 12, 2003 - Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, on Tuesday signed grant agreements with the Delta Regional Authority that will provide $600,000 in federal support for three University endeavors.

The Delta Regional Authority has awarded $200,000 in federal funds for a new University greenhouse, $200,000 to help support an addition of four new classrooms to the Kennett Area Higher Education Center, and another $200,000 to create an Entrepreneurial Training and Micro-Loan Program for small businesses in the region.

Delta Regional Authority (DRA) officials were in Cape Girardeau Tuesday at the Show Me Center to finalize DRA grants with a number of entities throughout the region.

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is a federal-state partnership designed to remedy severe and chronic economic distress by stimulating economic development and fostering partnerships that will have a positive impact on the region's economy. The DRA helps economically distressed communities to leverage other federal and state programs which are focused on basic infrastructure development and transportation improvements, business development and job training services.

Dobbins expressed gratitude to U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond and U.S. Rep. JoAnn Emerson for their work in securing the Delta grants.

"We are so appreciative of their work on behalf of the University in assisting us with federal funding for these worthwhile projects," Dobbins said. "During a time of severe budget constraints in the state of Missouri, federal funding is especially important to continue to move this University and its initiatives forward, particularly in the Delta region that we serve."

Greenhouse Funding

A new University greenhouse will enhance the school's existing rice research effort and other life science initiatives. Plans call for building a new greenhouse complex at Southeast. The first phase of the expansion calls for a new 11,000-square-foot greenhouse plus a head house (work building) to accompany it. The second phase calls for building a classroom laboratory building, an arboretum, walkways and turf management facilities.

Total cost of the first phase of the project is $650,000. The Delta grant is supplemented by private donations and funds from the Southeast Department of Agriculture. With the grant award, funding for the first phase is now complete.

"This is a very, very critical first step in us increasing our focus in the plant life sciences and our horticulture program," said Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies.

"A new greenhouse will go a long way toward enhancing the Department of Agriculture. We will now be able to involve students in our rice breeding program year round. This grant is just a godsend for us."

Shaw says construction of the new greenhouse is expected to begin in late summer, and that fund raising for the second phase of the project is continuing.

A new state-of-the-art greenhouse facility is expected to give students experience by being the producer, from planting to sales. The current greenhouse has about 5,500 square feet. The new greenhouse would be located on a 17-acre plot behind the University's new softball fields at Bertling and Sprigg, with access from Bertling.

"The program has outgrown its present greenhouse along New Madrid Street, west of the Student Recreation Center," said Dr. Wes Mueller, chair of the Southeast Department of Agriculture, "This will allow us to build one twice the size."

University officials say the plant life science and horticulture programs are expanding because of increased student interest and the increasing importance of the industry to Missouri. The program is important to incoming students, people working in the industry seeking continuing education opportunities and also those who want to be better gardeners and landscapers.

Funding for Entrepreneurial Training and Micro-Loan Program

The Delta Regional Authority also awarded a $200,000 grant to Southeast to create an Entrepreneurial Training and Micro-Loan Program for small businesses in the region.

Dr. Gerald McDougall, dean of the Donald L. Harrison College of Business, said, "We are especially pleased to receive this grant because the Harrison College of Business has made significant efforts to create stronger linkages with the business community and to bring our knowledge into that community to promote economic development and a stronger business environment. This grant will allow us to provide specific training for emerging and small businesses and to provide them with some financial loan assistance. This gives us the means to make a significant impact on small business throughout Southeast Missouri."

Of the $200,000, over half will be used to provide entrepreneurial training to residents throughout Southeast Missouri. The University's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southeast Missouri State University will deliver training, supplemented by support from the center for entrepreneurial studies when needed. Interested small business owners and entrepreneurs in Southeast Missouri may enroll in nine- and 12-session "FastTrac" programs developed through the Ewing Kauffman Foundation. The courses will be delivered both in traditional and interactive television classroom settings and will be designed for both aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business people.

"This will give them the foundation to successfully start a new business," said Buz Sutherland, director of the SBDC at Southeast, adding that poor planning is the number one cause of small business failure.

The entrepreneurial training program will help individuals in evaluating the feasibility of their business concept and get them started in carrying it forward. The in-depth, comprehensive training will be available through the University's outreach centers and through the Telecommunications Community Resource Centers in Poplar Bluff, Portageville and Park Hills, Mo.

The entrepreneurial training program is expected to begin in the spring.

"This will create access to a very successful and proven entrepreneurial training program," Sutherland said. "It will really stimulate entrepreneurial development in the Delta region and increase the probability for success."

The remainder of the $200,000 grant will be used for a micro-loan program. Graduates of the entrepreneurial training program will be eligible to apply for micro loans, up to $5,000, to assist them in getting their new business started.

Dr. Jack Sterrett, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Small Business Management, said the grant will go a long way toward extending entrepreneurship throughout this area.

"This Delta Regional Authority grant award is a tremendous vote of confidence in Southeast's current programming and efforts in the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Small Business Management to broaden understanding, build awareness, and to further disseminate and advance entrepreneurship throughout the University's service region. The Delta Regional Authority grant will, in effect, provide the resources that will serve as a catalyst to establish and broaden entrepreneurial training and financial assistance to a number of emerging and small businesses within the Southeast Missouri area, resulting in positive community and regional economic development."

Sutherland says Bond's and Emerson's efforts in assisting the University in securing this grant from the Delta Regional Authority are to be commended.

"They and their staffs have always been friends of small business," he said.

Kennett Area Higher Education Center Addition

In addition, the Delta Regional Authority awarded $200,000 to create four additional classrooms at the Kennett Area Higher Education Center (KAHEC). The Center held a fund-raising dinner last fall that raised more than $200,000 in matching funds for the $400,000 project.

Construction is expected to begin very soon. Two of the four classrooms are expected to be complete for the start of the fall 2003 semester. The other two classrooms are expected to be complete for the start of the spring 2004 semester.

Marsha Blanchard, director of KAHEC, says the facility currently contains four classrooms, but additional finished space is needed as enrollment continues to grow. In Fall 2000, 170 students were enrolled at KAHEC. That number grew to 506 in fall 2001 and to 600 in spring 2002. The numbers have continued to rise with enrollment at 733 for fall 2002 and about 670 for spring 2003, Blanchard said.

"We are utilizing every inch of space we have," she said, adding that 200 students have attended GED classes at the site and many community groups and industries have used the facility for meetings and training.

Blanchard says KAHEC has expanded from primarily night classes to a day schedule in order to fully utilize the building. In addition, KAHEC classes have been taught at the Kennett Public Schools, the Kennett Vocational School, Kennett High School and at Senath-Hornersville.

"We have really, really grown," she said.

 

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