Fulton looks to become a hub for small business

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FULTON - One group in Fulton wants to make their city a Mecca for small businesses.

About eight months ago, the Fulton Area Development Corporation came together at an open town hall meeting to see what they could do to better their community and local economy. The group realized that they had a way to bring in business to the city, but lacked a way to foster small business growth from within. A board of seven professionals were selected to help cultivate and kick-start the Show Me Innovation Center, a small business incubator that looks to bring economic prosperity to the city. 

Kim Barnes, President and CEO of Callaway Bank in Fulton is one of the members who is spearheading the cause. Barnes is a big advocate for what she likes to call "economic gardening". After noticing some troubling trends in the local economy, such as an aging population, a population decline and some empty storefronts, Kim became determined to develop those existing businesses struggling in her community as well as cultivate new ones. 

The group looks to create a culture that is welcoming to start-up-businesses and young entrepreneurs. "We want it so that young people can stay here instead of feeling like they have to go to a big urban center or move away to start their small business," Barnes said. 

Barnes also expressed her interest in developing existing businesses as well. "When you think of an incubator, an acceleration pool you tend to think of a new business but thats not the only thing that needs help," said Barnes. 

Both the City of Fulton and the local Chamber of Commerce have been backing the cause but the obstacle of fund raising still stands in the way. The board has already found a viable location to house the center, the old police station on Market Street downtown. Add that to the cost of the other services that need to be provided including mentorship and coaching by successful business professionals and it really adds up. "We could try look for funding sources in other ways but we are impatient to get started," said Barnes. So they launched their "Give Ten Get Ten" campaign, give ten dollars to the cause and get ten friends to donate as well. 

If you are interested in contributing to the cause you can go to www.showmeinnovation.org.