Angels in the Ozarks

Imagine you have created the widget and are ready to take the world by storm with your new invention. You sunk your life savings into the project, but fell short on cash to continue developing your business. Enter the angel investor, who provides business start-up capital in exchange for ownership equity.

Ozark Angel Investors is a group of such individuals who are dedicated to developing the economy of Rolla, Phelps County and the region by investing in local companies and entrepreneurs at an early stage. These investors, many former entrepreneurs themselves, pool their money to invest in high-risk, high-potential business ventures.

The investors, some of whom are S&T alumni, want to see the local area continue to advance. They work with S&T’s office of technology transfer and economic development (TTED) staff Keith Strassner, Chem’79, and Malcolm Townes, ME’95. The two serve as filters for investment opportunities and prepare people to pitch their projects and ideas to the potential investors. Strassner and Townes work closely with James Sowers, CSci’69, a member of the Ozark Angel Investors and president of JRS Enterprises Inc.

Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader, Delbert Day, CerE’58, Curators’ Professor emeritus of ceramic engineering, and retired Phelps County Bank President Bill Marshall are a few of the prominent community members who serve on the group’s board of directors.

“The group wants to see job growth in the local area,” explains Townes, associate director of TTED. “The investors are patient enough to look forward to the future and the return on investment that companies will have five to seven years down the road.”

Pitches come fast from the S&T campus, where many students and young alumni form their initial ideas, Strassner says. The Student Business Incubator at Missouri S&T’s Technology Development Center, located in Innovation Park, allows for great ideas to develop. Strassner and Townes help guide the larger-scale student projects.

The group hopes to bring additional technology-driven businesses to the local area. Securities and Exchange Commission-qualified investors who are ready to not only invest, but also offer their experience and connections, can find out more information about joining the Ozark Angel Investors by contacting Sowers at 573-364-6634 or emailing jrsowers@rollanet.org. For additional information about Innovation Park, call 573-341-4690 or email ecodevo@mst.edu.

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