The Covenant Community Development Corp. is offering a rare opportunity for Columbia residents interested in starting a small business.
The corporation’s Business Selection Committee — made up of a dozen Columbia volunteers and chaired by Doug Moesel, associate professor of management at MU — has developed an application for prospective business tenants in a future mixed-use development planned for Garth Avenue and Sexton Road. The development, approved by the Columbia City Council after a protracted debate last fall, will also include several apartments and an ALPS grocery store.
Moesel said potential business tenants have until June 15 to turn in a pre-application, which will require only simple background information. Covenant Executive Director Dana Battison said the top 10 to 12 applicants will be chosen by July 15, and they will be asked to turn in a more detailed business plan by Sept. 1.
“The reason we’re doing the pre-application is, we didn’t want to have people wasting their time if they didn’t pass the credit and background check,” Moesel said.
Moesel said Covenant Community Development, a nonprofit organization committed to providing economic op-
portunity to minorities and low-income residents, is providing a unique opportunity for small business owners by offering them support from various groups.
“We’re not going to try to run their business in any sense, but we’re going to try and help them make their business more effective,” he said.
Moesel and Battison said they are looking for people who are interested in starting their own businesses and who have some entrepreneurial skills. Moesel added that customer service and a philosophy similar to Covenant’s are important for businesses looking for a spot in the neighborhood.
According to a news release, up to six retail and service businesses will be chosen to lease the spaces, which are expected to range from 950 to 1,200 square feet. Moesel said if there are more than six worthy applicants, businesses could be assisted by a nearby incubator facility. He said any interested individuals will be considered, but socioeconomic status may play a role.
“We would love to see a representative sample of inner-city Columbia,” Moesel said.
Other members of the committee include representatives of Premier Bank, Bank of Missouri, a local microloan fund and current and retired businesspeople and clergy from the central city, the news release said.
Battison said Robert Leach, owner of Captain Cream Ice Cream, has already turned in an application, and she expects The Intersection, a nonprofit organization that provides programs for youngsters, to apply to occupy one of the spots.
“We’re going to have a sandwich shop where kids can apply for after-school jobs,” Battison said.
As for the grocery store, Battison said Covenant is finishing plans for someone in the community to own and operate it, and a decision is expected in the next month. Although the businesses won’t be decided on until later, Battison said construction on the area should begin this summer and should be complete within the first two months of 2008. After all the work it took to get the project on track and satisfy the City Council, Battison is pleased to see the final product on the horizon. Council members had cited concerns about whether the size of the development was appropriate for the area and how it might affect traffic at a relatively small intersection.
“It’s very rewarding, and it’s exciting for the neighbors, the kids and the citizens in the central city,” Battison said of the project.