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Why St. Joseph, MO, Is a Great Place To Launch Your Small Business

Thinking about starting your own business? Read on to discover 10 reasons why St. Joseph is the ideal place to do it.

By Rebecca Treon on November 1, 2022

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Missouri may be home to some of the country’s biggest companies — household names like Anheuser-Busch, Bass Pro Shops, AMC Theatres and Enterprise all have their headquarters there. But it’s also a place where small businesses can launch and be successful.

Small businesses are the foundation of growing cities and when they thrive, it’s not just the economy that flourishes, but the community and culture of a place that is enriched.

St. Joseph offers educated residents, short commute times, a low cost of living, access to infrastructure, plus a wealth of resources for small businesses.

Livability spoke with Rebecca Lobina, Missouri SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Director, about what makes St. Joseph great for small businesses. She offers 10 reasons that might just tempt you to start one of your own. 

1. There’s a lot of support for small businesses in St. Joseph.

The SBDC has 17 centers across the state of Missouri, but the one in St. Joseph is responsible for the city itself plus eight others that are very rural and exists to support small businesses.

“We are a resource partner of the FDA and we help with economic development by helping businesses to start, to grow, to create jobs, to retain jobs, to upscale the workforce and to access capital,” says Lobina. “We have a lot of Fortune 500 resources that we can utilize or offer our clients at no charge to them — our services are at no charge to the consumer.”

The local SBDC not only works with start-ups but also with existing businesses to provide any assistance needed at no charge. Bonus: Its office is inside the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, along with the St. Joseph Economic Development Partnership, making it a one stop shop for small business start-ups.

2. St. Joseph is a geographically desirable location.

Located just 45 minutes from Kansas City, two hours from Omaha and less than three hours from Des Moines, St. Joseph sits in the heart of the Midwest. Having access to these resources within a short distance is a boon to small businesses, who can access the economies of these larger metropolises and beyond without having to incur the higher cost of being located there.

Because of its rural surroundings, it offers access to many large manufacturing centers and processing facilities, which may reduce shipping costs. Being close to the bigger cities also offers easy access to airports that operate national and international flights.

3. Tax incentives exist for small business entrepreneurs.

St. Joseph offers tax incentives for small businesses who meet certain criteria, says Lobina. “If you’re investing in the community by buying a building or you’re employing a certain number of people, you may be eligible. If you’re working within a specific industry like technology or manufacturing, there are city and state incentives for that, too,” she says. “You may be able to reduce your payroll taxes, your property taxes or real estate taxes, then companies can also sell tax credits as well.”

4. Homeownership is attainable — and so is office space.

St. Joseph’s housing market is more affordable than many other places in the country and the average home price is far lower than the national average. According to Lobina, people are relocating to the area from both coasts toward the middle of the country not only for the lower real estate prices, but because the property taxes are far lower.

The lower cost of living also translates into rental space for small businesses — and not just in less desirable areas.

“The mall actually has little shop spaces that rent for roughly $300 a month, so you’re in a nice location in a good area of town that gets foot traffic,” she says. “You can also find lower rental prices downtown, depending on the size of the space and where it’s located.”

5. St. Joseph has a reliable infrastructure.

A key to any business’ success is having a reliable infrastructure in place. St. Joseph’s forward-thinking road and highway system allows easy access to all different areas in the city.

It’s the home to Missouri Western State University, which allows people local access to higher education. It also has well-supported internet access.

“There’s internet access anywhere you go in St. Joseph,” says Lobina. “All the rural counties are connected, too. Missouri has actually put internet access into place on a statewide level to make sure that everyone has access to internet no matter where in the state they are.”

6. It’s 10 minutes to anywhere.

St. Joseph is a small city with a population of more than 70,000 people, with the area known as The Parkway running through the center connecting it all and providing easy access to all areas of the city. Residents like to say no matter where you are in St. Joseph, you’re 10 (or 15) minutes to anywhere.

“You can pretty much get anywhere you want to from north to south or east to west, from the furthest points out of St. Joseph to the inner points, in about 15 minutes,” says Lobina.

St. Joseph also has an excellent public transportation system for a city of its size —  plus its public transit is customizable, allowing even more access.

“It has a standard schedule, but you can also arrange for it to pick you up at a specific location. It’s like having your own little Uber.”

7. The SBDC will help you launch your business.

If we haven’t already sung the praises of St. Joseph’s SBDC, there are even more reasons to make them your go-to when it comes to getting your business off the ground. Lobina will start with a one-on-one meeting asking the right (and sometimes difficult) questions.

“We go through a whole discovery process, we talk them through their idea to make sure it’s viable,” she says. “We have a checklist of things that every business needs, legally, to get started — and all of that is easy to access and available in person or online. If they need help specifically with marketing, for example, we work with them and help them develop a plan based on market research thanks to the resources we have.”

8. There’s a highly-educated employee pool to recruit from.

Missouri Western State University has more than 5,000 students and a range of majors. Many graduates look to stay in the area, adding to the pool of educated employees.

St. Joseph also has the Hillyard Technical Center, whose programs range from automotive, veterinary, welding and agriculture to electronics, teaching and healthcare. Students work on their certifications while still in high school, gaining valuable experience before they graduate and coming out looking to contribute in meaningful ways.

American Business & Technology University offers online study for two-year technology programs, bachelor’s degree programs and MBAs.

9. St. Joseph has four seasons, making for a variety of business opportunities.

St. Joseph has a range of things happening in the community no matter the season. From events drawing on its rich history to contemporary events that draw people to be a part of things, St. Joseph has many ways for small businesses to participate and connect to locals and visitors alike.

“The chamber is regularly involved with businesses throughout the city and puts out a St. Joseph guide every year that includes all the wonderful things to do,” says Lobina. “People come here for the water park and the splash park because they don’t have those things in their community. The Kansas City Chiefs football team has their summer training here and we have Missouri Western State University, too. Those all present opportunities.”

St. Joseph is on the Missouri River, and features riverfront activities and a casino, another stimulant of the local economy.

10. There are mentorship opportunities in St. Joseph.

There are plenty of opportunities in St. Joseph for people who want to find mentors. There are retired executives who will help small businesses with advice based on their experience. They also host weekly events called Cup of Joe that gather, engage and connect local entrepreneurs.

In addition to the active Cup of Joe group, there’s Leadership St. Joseph offering a year-long leadership development program hosted by the local United Way.

This article was sponsored by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce.

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