State Officials Recognize Innovate SOMO
Missouri leaders gather to celebrate the historic regional network, which received more than $7 million to support the Southern Missouri Innovation Network
July 26, 2023
Many of the fastest-growing careers and companies in Missouri are in tech. Throughout the state's more rural areas, though, the resources and technical services to equip entrepreneurs and workers for these opportunities aren't available.
These gaps in opportunity are what motivated the creation of the Southern Missouri Innovation Network1 (Innovate SOMO) and our mission: to unlock the full potential of entrepreneurship and innovation to transform entire communities in the southernmost 47 counties in Missouri. When people have the skills and resources to enter high-quality occupations and start more of the companies that provide those jobs, the economic well-being of the entire region benefits.
We were incredibly humbled to be invited by the Missouri Department of Economic Development to be 1 of only 12 projects to be celebrated in their Helping Missourians Prosper ARPA Tour5 and even more appreciative of their investments in Innovate SOMO. The department received more than 2,000 grant applications across all grant programs and awarded more than 650 grant awards, ranging from $5,000 to $5M. Since the inception of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the state of Missouri has pumped more than $2.7 billion into programs to build and revitalize the state. Approximately 20% of the funds were designated for economic development programs.
Our Approach: Distribute the Expertise Within a Broad Region, to Serve the Region
There are a variety of strategies that organizations that provide consulting to small metropolitan, micropolitan, and rural areas purport to help close the opportunity gaps preventing entrepreneurs and workers in those communities from full prosperity offered by tech companies and jobs. We’ve seen first-hand attempts by outside organizations and governments to distribute elaborate planning and development programs that fail to recognize the unique talent and experience needed to develop and deploy programs and services in tech. In our years of collective experience, we don’t think it’s as easy as understanding a system. Yes, it’s important for local community leaders to be better informed to become advocates for tech economic development, but we think regional collaboration is required to import the expertise to make the ecosystem successful and sustainable.
We are a collaborative network of businesses and organizations that include world-class organizations and highly experienced practitioners who work together for greater impact. We connect workers to training, entrepreneurs to resources and coaches, and employers to talent—all to drive regional growth and prosperity. And everyone in the network gets their hands dirty. We don’t tell each other or teach each other what to do. We leverage our expansive regional footprint to engage the experts needed to produce results. Instead of asking them to consult with communities to learn the expertise they have amassed over decades, we deploy their programs and services across the network.
Just Getting Started
The support of our state leaders is energizing and somewhat confirmatory of our collective insights – it’s about regional collaboration. But we have lots of work left to do to leverage our large regional network and truly unique assets, to provide the very best opportunities for our neighbors to thrive.
Again, we thank all who attended the event for their continued support of Innovate SOMO. Now, let's get to work!