Pawhuska center trains entrepreneurs

Nathan Thompson
Chandler Helmer works at his office in the Pawhuska Business Development Center. Through the business incubator services offered by Tri County Tech's The Strategy Center, Helmer's business, Blades Unlimited, has increased internet sales substantially.

Osage County may not be the place people first think about when they want to establish a new business, but a unique partnership between Tri County Tech’s The Strategy Center, the Osage County Industrial Authority, the Osage Nation and the city of Pawhuska has changed that perception.

In 2012, the $2.1 million Pawhuska Business Development Center was dedicated near the corner of Boundary Avenue Virginia Short Street. According to Larry Thrash, president of The Strategy Center, the 20,000 square-foot facility is designed to generate economic development in Pawhuska and Osage County.

“The building is owned by the Osage County Industrial Authority, and Tri County has a 20-year lease to manage and operate it,” Thrash said. “We are able to provide business incubator services, classroom space, meeting and conference facilities for the Pawhuska area. This unique space has allowed us to grow in ways we never though possible.”

The primary goal of the facility, Thrash said, is to be the area’s first choice for entrepreneurs, businesses, and individuals seeking assistance for customized training, community education classes, business consultations and start up information. Pawhuska Business Development Center has five industrial bays, 10 office spaces, two classrooms, and one conference room that can be scheduled for use by incubator clients and members of the community.

In the four years of existence, the facility has grown into a highly-used resource for Pawhuska, with classroom and training services for the Osage Nation and community groups, as well as startup services for entrepreneurs looking to grow business.

Cindy Helmer is the site coordinator for the Pawhuska Business Development Center. She serves as the person who coordinates, schedules and manages communications for the facility.

“Outside of training classes for the Osage Nation and other groups, and our incubator, we served 2,500 people last year,” Helmer said. “For a town of 3,500, that is an amazing number. This is just for groups who were needing a meeting room and being a part of lunch and learn activities. This has become a hub for the city, and every other month we have done a program we call Food for Thought. This is such a popular program that we have changed one of our industrial bays into an event center. It really has become a great place to be.”

Of course, the primary goal of the facility is to incubate new business. Continued success for startups have kept the Pawhuska Business Development Center in operation.

Joe Tillman is president and founder of Big T Sports and Athletics, a company geared toward youth sports. He runs his company out of the Pawhuska Business Development Center. Big T Sports and Athletics develops training activities for all youth sports and will also soon be moving into the area of manufacturing equipment.

“I have been in the facility for about a year-and-a-half, and the support I have received has been awesome,” Tillman said. “I have some patents pending on some new equipment for youth sports and once I receive the approval, I am looking to not only have my office here, but also move into manufacturing the equipment in one of the industrial bays.”

Another success story comes from Cindy Helmer’s son, Chandler. The 20-year-old started an internet-based sales company out of his bedroom. Blades Reloaded sells custom knives. Chandler Helmer moved to the Pawhuska Business Development Center in April 2016 after growth of his business required additional space and resources.

“Having the opportunity to move out to the Tri County Tech facility has been great,” Chandler Helmer said. “It has given me the space to grow my business into what it needs to be.”

Since moving into the business incubator, Chandler Helmer’s business has grown to over 500 sales per month and through innovative marketing on Instagram, Blades Unlimited has over 85,000 followers.

“Using the resources I am able to get here at Tri County Tech’s building, I am able to ship my products to all 50 states and the growth potential is unlimited,” Chandler Helmer said. “It has been an awesome experience.”

For more information about the services and programs offered at Pawhuska Business Development Center, call 918-287-3357.