Belinda Stewart, Eupora architect, Mike Armour, of Golden Triangle ARC, and Ed Todd of Long Branch Metal Fabrication talk Thursday after an event to honor five small businesses. The businesses were honored by the Mississippi Technology Alliance as innovators in the Golden Triangle region. Photo by: Kelly Tippett/Dispatch Staff
April 20, 2012 10:20:49 AM
STARKVILLE -- If a tree falls in the forest and a new kind of machine strips it of its limbs and bark in one swift operation, does it make a sound?
It did for Chambers Delimbinator, Inc. one of five small businesses from distressed rural counties in the Golden Triangle, honored Thursday, by the Mississippi Technology Alliance, for entrepreneurial approaches to their fields.
The five businesses -- Long Brach, Inc. of West Point, Trailboss Trailers, Inc. of Macon, Polo Custom Products of Louisville, Belinda Stewart Architects of Eupora and Chambers Delimbinator, Inc. of Ackerman -- were acknowledged for their innovations during a panel, workshop and luncheon at the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District offices in Starkville.
Chambers Delimbinator developed a machine to strips limbs and bark, greatly expediting the delivering of lumber to mills.
Although varied in their fields -- the companies ranged from manufacturing to textiles to architecture -- the small businesses had several things in common, noted GTPDD Vice President Bubba Weir:
"What they have in common is that they are all innovators, either making new products or providing new services that have never been used before," Weir said. "What they are doing is unique in one way or another."
Each business operates in small or economically depressed towns. They are, Weir said, examples of the sort of innovation vital to the future success of their communities.
"For a lot of these companies, the owner is the chef, cook and bottle washer," Weir said. "They are the ones who have time to be involved in trade organizations or attend chamber of commerce meetings. They're out there working."
The event was a part of a year-long project called the Golden Triangle Innovation Cluster, which is funded by the Appalachians Regional Commission and the MTA to expose small business in rural towns to resources of which they might not be aware.
"This is an opportunity to bring in these businesses and let them know what resources are available to them," Weir said.
Ed Todd of Long Branch, Inc. offered a good example of how difficult it is for small businesses to navigate the complex world of marketing and finance.
"There are a lot of things that we just don't have any experience dealing with," Todd said. 'Right now, we're working on an auto-vaccinator that vaccinates chicken houses. We've spent five years on it and we hope to go to market with it this year. But we need some help in marketing, design and finance. Those are the kind of things that a small business really needs when it has developed something new. It's not something we were ever trained on."
Architect Belinda Stewart finds herself doing cutting-edge work, but without the sharpest tools.
Stewart, who opened her firm about 22 years ago, has specialized in planning sustainable and efficient buildings.
"I tell everyone that the greenest building out there is the one that's already standing," she said. "Our focus is to restore and recycle those buildings in a way where they have what I call practical sustainability."
But Stewart's innovation is challenged by the most basic of problems.
"The biggest problem is the Internet," she said. "That's pretty common in a small town, but for us it's a real challenge. We need the software and higher speed on our Internet. Right now, we're limited."
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