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IDA doles out $100,000 for business incentives

Thursday, November 13, 2008 | 3:58 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Two organizations, the Missouri Innovation Center and Regional Economic Development Inc., received $50,000 grants from the Boone County Industrial Development Authority for efforts to attract new businesses.

The IDA, a quasi-governmental corporation that awards tax-free bonds for agricultural, commercial and industrial development in the county, chose the two organizations from applications submitted in July based on their ability to create jobs in Columbia.

IDA President J. Scott Christianson said the grant program, which was established two years ago, gives the organization a chance to “put some money back into the community.” Because all the money from the fund is now spent, this will be the last year the organization can award grants.

The organization chose REDI, an economic development organization, based on its previous ability to attract businesses. Last year, REDI received $50,000 from the IDA and gave $25,000 of that to Media Convergence Group in the form of a flexible incentive grant, REDI President Bernie Andrews said. The group opened Newsy.com, a multimedia newsroom in partnership with MU’s School of Journalism. The money given to MCG was used for relocation and rent.

“It’s a good door-opener to be able to offer someone, if they relocate to Columbia, to cover start-up costs. That’s attractive, and it gets attention,” Andrews said. “We very much appreciate the IDA’s support for economic development with grants.”

The IDA funding frees up other REDI resources that can be used toward flexible incentive grant projects.

The Missouri Innovation Center, a nonprofit organization that encourages economic growth through the creation of entrepreneurial technology firms, also won a grant because of its ability to attract jobs. Its addition of a new MU Life Science Business Incubator at Monsanto Place might soon house new companies not only from Missouri and the United States but also from around the world.

“It’s a really good opportunity for job creation in Boone County and Columbia,” Christianson said.

The incubator, which opens its doors in December, will help young companies grow and be successful by providing specialized facilities and equipment, business advisory services and assistance with securing investment capital. The incubator can accommodate companies in such fields as biomedical, information technology, renewable resources and green technology.

The Missouri Innovation Center, which hasn’t applied for IDA grants before, will use the money to customize space in the incubator during discussion stages with new companies, in hopes of sealing a deal, MIC President and CEO Jake Halliday said. Even though the incubator has world-class lab space, the funding can be used to tailor the space to the companies' specifications or to add amenities they need.

"With funding from IDA, we're able to increase the attractiveness of what we have to offer," Halliday said. “If a company says, ‘This would be perfect for us if it had A, B, and C,’ we can use the funds to do it."

Presently, companies from both the United States and Europe are touring the incubator, so the IDA grant couldn’t have come at a better time, Halliday said. A company from the United Kingdom is expected to view the incubator next week.

“The timing is absolutely perfect,” Halliday said.


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