Community, workforce, economic and business development

MU Extension helps West Plains army veteran expand enterprise

 

Many military veterans have the background and inclination to pursue entrepreneurship. Floyd Henson of West Plains, Mo., is a good example. A U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea, Japan and Vietnam, Henson learned many things during his tours of duty that benefited him when he became a business owner.

“My army experience taught me the value of honesty, integrity and discipline,” Henson said. “When I became a business owner, I applied the management skills I developed as a helicopter crew chief. Planning and thorough preparation are key.”

According to recent U.S. Small Business Administration studies, veterans “are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.” The organization, motivation and discipline required to succeed in the military are similar to traits necessary to succeed as a business owner.

His company — Henson Enterprises Inc. — focuses on manufacturing precision-machined industrial parts for producers such as Caterpillar, Regal-Beloit and DRS Technologies. Much of the work Henson Enterprises performs is conducted through contracts with government agencies. Henson decided to pursue his first government contract a couple years after starting the firm in 2003. To improve his chances of winning
his first contract, he turned to an old friend and former coworker.

That old friend, Willis Mushrush, is a specialist with University of Missouri Extension’s Business Development Program (BDP). Among his many areas of expertise, Mushrush helps businesses traverse the maze of government contracting rules at the BDP’s Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center.

Photo: Willis Mushrush and Floyd Henson examine a piece of machinery

Floyd Henson, left, owner of Henson Enterprises, and Willis Mushrush, MU Extension business development specialist, examine one of the precision parts Henson’s company produces for government and private business applications.

“When Floyd wanted to apply for a government contract, I helped him follow government regulations and complete the elaborate paperwork he needed to pursue those contracts,” Mushrush said.

As business progressed, Henson eventually determined he needed to expand his company. He had the opportunity to buy sophisticated manufacturing equipment at a bargain price from his former employer. To do that, he needed a loan.

Once again, Mushrush assisted by applying business development expertise derived from another BDP program, the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers.

“We put together a detailed business plan, which Floyd used to secure business expansion money from four funding sources,” Mushrush explained.

The loans allowed Henson to expand his plant, buy additional manufacturing equipment and create more jobs at his company. The 10-year-old firm has grown from 600 square feet to 25,000 square feet, and its original workforce of two employees has grown to 18 skilled workers.

“These jobs have made a significant impact on the economy in West Plains,” Mushrush said. “They aren’t just minimum-wage jobs. They are highly paid manufacturing positions that demand specialized training and experience.”

 

The Business Development Program (BDP) helped clients start 227 new businesses, create or retain 9,005 jobs, increase sales by more than $224 million and acquire more than $166 million in new financing.

In FY 2014, the Labor Education Program offered 33 courses and conferences to meet the needs of 773 participants. A major focus of Labor Education programming in FY 2014 involved studying the pressures imposed on economic security through significant changes in employee retirement and health benefit plans.