By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
TAHLEQUAH — Northeast Oklahoma’s new wave of business growth could come from home — or home computers, an Iowa economist says.
“This is the age of entrepreneurship,” said Maureen Collins-Williams, director of Entrepreneurship Outreach for the University of Northern Iowa. Collins-Williams spoke about entrepreneurship and sole proprietor businesses during her keynote address at the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Summit, held Tuesday at Northeastern State University. The Summit brought together 300 business, civic, tribal and educational leaders from 14 northeast Oklahoma counties.
“Technology is creating employment in home-based businesses,” Collins-Williams said. “The online world is connected. People are starting businesses and are sole proprietors.”
She said there were 543,000 new business start-ups in 2011 — and more are yet to come.
“Even in Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas, we have the potential to have an enormous number of people starting businesses. Almost to a person, I have been able to note that we’ve had much entrepreneurship here in northeast Oklahoma.”
Sallisaw experienced a 186 percent growth in sole proprietorship business — from 329 in 1999 to 941 in 2009, she said. “It is the silent economy of home-based businesses.”
Northeast Oklahoma has several advantages in place that could attract and help individual entrepreneurs, she said. She cited a diverse population and abundant natural resources as an example. The region also has Northeastern State University, Rogers State University, several community colleges and technology centers, she said.
Indian Capital Technology Center Superintendent Tom Stiles said he sees ICTC’s place in helping entrepreneurs.
“We can continue to be a partner with small businesses,” Stiles said. “We can help foster their vision and be partners. This is what we do every day.”
Collins-Williams cited Bennett Surveying of Chouteau as an example of entrepreneurship. She said the company invested in the latest surveying technology and managed to hire four new employees.
Noting that Chouteau has about 2,000 residents, Collins-Williams asked “do you think four new jobs make a difference?”
When she mentioned start-up businesses in Craig County, people at one table yelled “It’s happening in Chelsea.”
Cheryl Adams, a job developer in the Cherokee Nation’s vocational rehabilitation department, said there is a new business in Chelsea that makes the shiny silk suits that jockeys wear.
“And they sell them around the world,” Adams said.
The summit also featured discussions on issues such as improving infrastructure and combating teen pregnancy. There were booths from various Cherokee Nation enterprises, ICTC, NSU, RSU and the Muskogee Area Education Consortium.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or email@example.com.