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Farmington Regional Chamber luncheon showcases small business

Pastor Rocky Good from Meadow Heights Church talked to the chamber members about the upcoming Night to Shine event. Lisa Brotherton-Barnes

The Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Community Luncheon, held Nov. 16 in the Centene Center’s freshly repaired banquet and lobby area, focused on resources available to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Larry Joseph spoke on behalf of the St. Francois Rotary Club, reminding chamber members about the upcoming 65th Annual Rotary Club Shootout set for Dec. 16 at Mineral Area College. The shootout event typically raises about $10,000 for scholarships awarded to area high school students. The all-day event will feature area boys and girls basketball teams. Later in the evening, the Park Hills-based community college’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will play. 

New Heights Church Pastor Rocky Good reminded everyone about the upcoming Night to Shine in February, which is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.  The event promotes positivity and acceptance and provides a prom experience for special needs individuals ages 14 and older.

Chamber Executive Director Candy Hente spoke about the upcoming Farmington Community Christmas Kick-off, which falls on the same date as Small Business Saturday.

“There will be lots of fun, free events for families,” she said. “Lots of Christmas-related things going on, new decorations in town courtesy of Discover Farmington. It’s going to be photo-worthy, so don’t miss it.”

Hente highlighted the free app “Eat, Shop, Play in the Parkland” and encouraged people to download it so they could participate in the second annual Shop Small Scavenger Hunt that runs from Nov. 25 through Dec. 4. Each of the more than 26 participating area businesses will have a QR code hidden in the store. Players must locate and scan the code. Each scan equals an entry in the game and a chance to be the grand prize winner, who will be announced Dec. 5 on the Chamber’s Facebook page on Dec. 5.

Chris and Stacy Sisk, co-owners of CS Design and one of the featured speakers, gave a brief presentation on the ways that CS Design could help businesses establish or solidify their digital footprints through better definition of social media strategies. They presented a three-phase online marketing plan that covered branding strategy, website building, and circulating the business message. 

“Statistics show that 70 to 90% of the people who are interested in your business will look for you online before they ever step through your door,” said Chris Sisk. “It’s important that see what you want them to see. Online marketing doesn’t have to be scary.”

Heather Garner, business development coach with Southeast Economic Development Fund, Inc. (SEED$) in Park Hills, spoke about her organization’s advocacy for entrepreneurs. The three primary branches of service SEED$ offers are financing and technical assistance for startups or existing businesses, training, and resources. SEED$ serves an eight-county radius — Washington, St. Francois, Iron, Madison, Perry, Ste. Genevieve, Bollinger and Cape Girardeau.

“Our services are always free, and we exist to support startups, entrepreneurs and growing small businesses,” Garner said. “Our funding comes from state and local resources as well as from community partners.”

Heather Garner with SEED$ speaks about the program she leads that assists local small businesses. Lisa Brotherton-Barnes

Some of SEED$’s funding resources mentioned by Garner include First State Community Bank, Iron County Economic Partnership, Washington County IDA, St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority, US Bank, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided through the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Marquitte Shannon, program director at Jefferson Franklin Community Action Corporation, brought information for and represented the Small Business Resource Center.

The center offers services such as Small Business Administration lending guidance, commercial lending guidance, marketing services, credit development, training resources, legal services, accounting services, and coaching.

“We are all about making connections,” Shannon said. “Whether that is within the local community or across the state, we work to make that happen.”

Sandra Cabot, southeast project manager for DED’s Regional Engagement Division, spoke about supporting Missouri businesses.

“The DED works to create an environment that encourages economic growth by supporting Missouri’s businesses and diverse industries, strengthening our communities and developing a talented and skilled workforce,” she said. “Each program offers unique opportunities for small business owners to grow their businesses with answers to questions from legal, accounting, marketing, finance, international expansion and more.”

Following the featured speakers’ presentations, Hente said she had something “very exciting” to share. 

“The Farmington Regional Chamber Office has officially been designated as a Small Business Development Center (SBDC),” she said. “This has been several years in the making. These centers provide counseling and training to small businesses, including working with the Small Business Association to develop and provide informational tools to support business start-ups and existing business expansion. We will soon be searching for a full-time SBDC counselor, and the details will be available on our website.”

Closing out the meeting, the annual Help the Hungry Bake Sale had three cakes auctioned off by local radio personality and bake sale master of ceremonies Mark Toti. Around $1,000 was raised by chamber members for the annual charity that raises funds for the Ministerial Alliance and St. Vincent de Paul food pantries. 

The next luncheon will be held at noon Dec. 21 at the Centene Center. There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration and a $10 fee are required for those eating the catered. For more information, call the chamber at 573-756-3615.

Lisa Brotherton-Barnes is a staff writer with the Daily Journal. She can be reached at lbarnes@dailyjournalonline.com.

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