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Entrepreneur center’s goal: Business development in region

Entrepreneur center’s goal: Business development in region
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Northwest Tennessee is getting a new entrepreneur center that will help spark business development in the region.
The Entrepreneur Center Northwest Tennessee will be located in Martin and will be managed by executive director Carol Reed.
She was officially hired earlier this week following an extensive search conducted by a six-member search committee. She was hired from a large field of candidates that was eventually narrowed to four finalists, who were interviewed by the search committee.
Ms. Reed has been with Reelfoot Bank in Martin for the past 10 years, serving most recently as bank vice president and branch manager. She is a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration. She is a member of the University of Tennessee at Martin College of Business and Global Affairs advisory board.
She is now making the transition to running what will serve as a regional business incubator.
Ms. Reed will join Union City attorney Judy Barker and Sara Rieger when they travel to Nashville and Chattanooga next week to learn more about how to set up the local entrepreneur center. Ms. Rieger has been working to get the entrepreneur center started and Mrs. Barker serves on the board of directors.
John Bucy, executive director of the Northwest Tennessee Development Center in Martin, has been working closely with the entrepreneurship center’s board of directors to get the project off the ground.
“We’re all very excited about the potential impact this project will have on the entire northwest Tennessee region,” he said.
First State Bank chief executive officer John Clark is chairman of the entrepreneur center project and the board of directors is a diverse mix of business  leaders from across the region.
Among those serving on the 16-member board are Tommy Cates from UTM, Cox Oil owner Mike Cox, Union City businessman Robert Kirkland, Union City accountant Art Sparks, Martin pharmacist Van Swaim, Dresden veterinarian Dr. Bob Page and Tiptonville businessman Mack Forrester.
The new entrepreneur center is one of several such centers being opened across the state. They are being structured to help promote economic development.
The center will work with potential entrepreneurs and help them find start-up funding, develop business ideas, create a business plan and overcome any obstacles. Funding for the entrepreneur center is coming through the state Department of Economic Development.
The center is located, at least temporarily, in an office on White Street in Martin.
The Weakley County center will serve that county as well as Obion, Lake, Benton, Carroll, Gibson, Crockett, Dyer and Henry counties.
“It’s all about Gov. Haslam’s effort to bring jobs to Tennessee,” Mrs. Barker said.
The local entrepreneurship center will rely on support from the state’s new LaunchTN program as well as from officials with other entrepreneur centers across the state.
Two of the key goals for the entrepreneurship center will be recruiting “angel investors” and business mentors to work with the program.
Angel investors will be used to help financially support individual projects that are developed through the entrepreneur center.
Mentors will be recruited to work with emerging entrepreneurs to help them develop their business plan. The mentors will come from such fields as law, health care, retail, marketing and communications, manufacturing and agriculture.
“Business startups are a critical generator of new jobs in Tennessee. Because of this, my administration is committed to supporting its entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activity,” Haslam said. “Through Startup Tennessee, entrepreneurs in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville and every county and city in between have the opportunity to connect with the people and resources that can help them successfully launch their companies.
“Entrepreneurs can access the Startup Tennessee Resource Network through StartupTN.com. This network links each of the regions to each other and helps to accelerate startup activity by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors, investors and business partners.”
The new entrepreneur center project comes as welcome news for a region that has been devastated by high unemployment and a relatively stagnant economy.
Published in The Messenger 8.2.12

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