PIKETON, Ohio — The future of southern Ohio is now. With just a snip of the ribbon giving way to the entrance of the new Ohio State University South Centers at Piketon Endeavor Center Business Incubator and Training Facility, seven years of planning, funding and construction have turned dreams into reality for communities throughout Appalachian Ohio.
"‘Endeavor' is process that goes beyond simply trying to do something. It's an earnest attempt to complete a goal. A lot of people endeavored to get us where we are today and we have a lot of endeavors ahead of us to make this new facility the best it can be for southern Ohio," said Tom Worley, interim director for OSU South Centers. "The name of the center is appropriate as it captures the essence of what the facility is all about."
Close to 200 visitors attended the ribbon cutting at the South Centers earlier this month, marking the grand opening of the Endeavor Center Business Incubator and Training Facility. The facility is designed to increase jobs and boost economic development throughout southern Ohio through education, training and assistance of veteran business owners as well as fledgling entrepreneurs.
The ribbon cutting was part of a daylong small business conference, "Expanding Your Markets in the 21st Century," presented by the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission. Participants included university faculty and staff, residents in Piketon and surrounding communities, industry representatives and legislative personnel.
"We believe in economic development. We believe that it is important to the future of southern Ohio," said Keith Smith, associate vice president for Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and director of OSU Extension. "We are committed to staying in the saddle, staying connected to make sure that the Endeavor Center is successful."
The 27,000 square-foot facility offers 26 spaces differing in size and use for entrepreneurs. The training wing of the new building also provides housing for Ohio State's Learning Center South, which currently provides programs for the community in a small computer lab and auditorium. The new and expanded learning center facility includes two classrooms, a computer laboratory and conference areas to accommodate meetings for various sized training classes. Tailored programs are being developed for the needs of businesses and citizens throughout the region, as well as professional development classes for local K-12 teachers and administrators.
Ohio State has received over $4 million in grants to assist in the construction and operations of the facility and provide equipment and furnishings. Funding was provided by the U. S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, the Southern Ohio Agriculture and Community Development Foundation, the Ohio Governor's Office of Appalachia and U. S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development. Local matching funds for the grants were provided by Ohio State University Extension (funds generated from the State Capital Budget, awarded by the Controlling Board), Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) and Scioto County's Office of Economic Development.
"Seven years ago, this community was at a crossroads, and one of the decisions made to move this region forward economically is standing right behind me," said Greg Simonton, pointing to the new facility. Simonton is executive director of SODI. "And each crossroads leads to another. We shouldn't be concerned with what buildings we build or what roads we've paved, but that we've helped people."
T.J. Justice, director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, reflected on how much of a difference the Endeavor Center can make in the life of even one businessperson.
"The project hits home for me because my grandfather was an entrepreneur in Appalachian Kentucky in the 1950s. He was unable to maintain his business and there was no place to go and learn new job skills. Because of that he had to move his family to southern Ohio," said Justice. "Your collective work here today will give individuals the opportunity to get job skills and training to plant that seed and start a business or keep an existing one."
Several tenants are already using the services the Endeavor Center provides, either in-house or in an outreach basis. Piketon staff is hoping to have the center full within five years. Individuals or businesses seeking assistance or that could benefit from the Endeavor Center's services may contact Steve Shepherd at (740) 289-2071 for more information.