Joplin may be able to bring more computer science education opportunities and remote jobs to the city in the future.
The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce has renovated the Joseph Newman Innovation Center, 407 S. Pennsylvania Ave., to attract startup businesses.
The innovation center had been operating more as a landlord than a business incubator, and three businesses that had been housed there have become standalone operations, said Toby Teeter, chamber president.
The chamber is making other efforts to attract and retain young professionals, entrepreneurs and technology jobs as well as manufacturing and other sectors of employment, Teeter told the Joplin City Council recently.
"There has been some active discussion and meetings with tech companies about working with Missouri Southern to transform its computer science program and land that in the downtown campus," Teeter said.
The reference to the downtown campus involves the use of the former public library building, 300 S. Main St., that the city provided to the university to establish a branch campus.
Teeter also said that there is no count of how many remote workers — those who work at home for companies located in other parts of the country — live in Joplin. He said that is a growing movement as companies find it less expensive to have employees telecommute than to maintain office space for all their workforce.
Councilman Ryan Stanley asked if the chamber has a databank of remote employers.
Teeter said PNC Bank, based on the West Coast, is one such company; he said about 30 people who live in Joplin work remotely for the bank.
There is potential to create a remote workforce that could land workers with six-figure incomes in Joplin, the chamber leader said, and that avenue will be explored.
Chamber leaders also are working on a relaunch of the former Joplin Regional Partnership, renamed the MOKAN Partnership. It is focused on promoting the region as an easily accessible place in the heart of the nation where a dedicated workforce is available.
Teeter said Tony Robyn has been named director of business attraction and retention for the partnership. Robyn formerly served as assistant director of planning and development for the city of Joplin and then worked at the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council.
Also working for the partnership is Morris Glaze, a retired freight salesman for Standard Transportation who is active as a volunteer in economic development.
Teeter said the Crossroads Business and Distribution Park needs signs as a way to call attention to its location and that he and his staff are trying to obtain signage.
The chamber is also looking into the possibility of obtaining promotion for the business park through the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
And a redesigned website for the chamber was launched recently.
"We reoriented the whole chamber organization to achieve four things," Teeter told the Globe. "One is to serve businesses better. Two is livability. Three is to build community leaders, and four is to attract new business and industry to Joplin."