Gov. Jay Nixon visited the Hale McGinty Business Development Center on Tuesday to celebrate three economic development initiatives in the community.

Gov. Jay Nixon visited the Hale McGinty Business Development Center on Tuesday to celebrate three economic development initiatives in the community.

One of those is the dedication of the La-Z-Boy Opportunity Center housed there, for which the governor had the honor of cutting the ribbon before a houseful of onlookers.

The new center in the same building as the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce has three missions, according Mike Franks, CEO of Neosho Area Business & Industrial Foundation Inc.

“The first is it’s a state-of-the-art, digital training facility that any of our local businesses are able to use free,” he said. “If you’re in the industrial park or if you’re a chamber member you have access to it. It has the ability to stream training directly from the Internet. It has a smartboard so you can bring a trainer on site, and it’s configurable for any size group.”

A dedicated portion is work centers that have been established for people who have an idea and want to start a business or are small and don’t have office space, Franks said.

“Maybe their business is of the scale right now that they can’t afford office space, so they are welcome to come in here and use it as well,” he said. “We’ll also work with them on business plans and lend any kind of assistance that we can. It’s really designed to jumpstart business in Neosho, both in terms of training and in terms of housing small businesses, as well.”

Established businesses can conduct off-site training for their employees, Franks said, adding that the first local company is scheduled to use the facility to train its regional managers.

“By having this facility, you really create a great place for people to do that,” he said. “It’s wasteful for every business to have to go build their own facility when we can have a shared service that really helps everybody. That’s what La-Z-Boy has really made possible for our whole community.”

Combined with Newton County designated as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC), Franks said, the center will send a message to current local businesses and those Neosho hopes to attract that the county is serious about providing them with an excellent work force.

“If there are unmet needs, we now have the facilities and the ability to go work on those needs and try to make things better for them,” he said. “Really, it positions us with a support vehicle for current businesses and as building a work force that will attract new businesses to the area.”

The future looks bright for business in Neosho, according to Franks, because of the new center providing additional abilities to “skill up” the local work force and allow existing businesses to advance.

“For example, IT is part of every business today,” he said. “You have to have that. You may order and you may take payments and maybe do a lot of things over the Internet. You need places to show your people how they can learn the skill sets that you need, the training, for example, for IT. This facility is perfect for that.”

Safety is an important aspect in area industries, and Franks said the facility is a great place to provide safety training.

“(For) all the types of training to allow businesses to go to the next level, they don’t have to build a facility and figure out how they are going to do it,” he said. “All they have to do is access that training, and they can use this facility right here.”

The new center and the CWRC complement La-Z-Boy Midwest’s mission to maintain its position as one of the divisional leaders in safety and quality, company Vice President Bill Snow said.

“Like so many businesses, we are successful only if we have a consistent fit of people with the right tools in the right places,” Snow said. “This program and room will serve the people in our community by giving them those tools to be successful. In partnership with our strong community leadership, La-Z-Boy shares the same vision of attracting strong talent to the county we serve in.”

The La-Z-Boy Foundation provided a $55,000 grant to outfit the 800-square-foot space.