MIAMI – Northeast Tech recently celebrated with the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce on the grand opening of its new Miami Main. The beautiful facility, located at 11 S. Main in downtown Miami, is home to the chamber offices, as well as co-working and community space.
According to Steve Gilbert, Chamber Director, the goal of Miami Main is four-fold. The obvious first purpose is to serve as the headquarters of the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce. The second is to create a co-working space. Chamber and economic development leaders visited 36 Degrees North in Tulsa and the North Block Common in Claremore for design ideas.
“I believe that small towns and rural communities can think big and be very competitive in economic development,” said Gilbert. “One of the reasons we combined our chamber and economic development initiatives was to really send a message about our community that we are ready to grow, help entrepreneurs and help existing industry. This facility can help us do that.”
The third purpose of Miami Main is to serve as a business incubator. Inventor Tom Yoakum is a great example. Yoakum started a company called ISEEYOU360 to market his invention of a head-mount, rear-view display system.
“As an inventor, I’ve had a lot of ideas – I have an entire book of ideas,” said Yoakum. “But this is the one that kept me up at night. I kept asking myself, “Do we have this and can we make this?””
Finally, as society has more and more began accepting the use of wearable technology, Yoakum felt the timing for his invention was right
“This basically gives you eyes in the back of your head,” said Yoakum. “Imagine a police officer writing a speeding ticket being able to look up in his peripheral to see what’s going on behind him.”
The devise is fully recordable, integrated with infrared and hardline, will have OnStar-like capabilities and automatically upload a video feed to cloud. It will increase the user’s line of sight to create fulltime, situational awareness. Primarily intended for military, border patrol and police use, the camera system could also have some civilian applications.
“It has been endorsed by a local Harley Davidson dealer and Allstate Insurance agent because once it is ready for use, it will have huge safety implications,” said Yoakum.
Yoakum has put approximately two years of work into the project, which is nearing completion of its second version prototype. If the prototype passes all of the tests, it could be ready for production close to the end of the year. The long-term plan is to release it simultaneously in seven allied countries.
But as far as he’s made it in the recent months, it all started with just one initial contact – Barbara Bonner at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC). She then connected Yoakum with Northeast Tech’s Manufacturing Extension Agent Mike Mitchell.
“Being ex-military, I was really excited about this idea,” said Manufacturing Extension Agent Mike Mitchell. “I have been honored to be a part of helping Tom realize his dream and make this grow.”
Mitchell set up meetings for Yoakum with Northeast Tech Business & Industry Services Director Liberty Shere who assisted with market research and writing his business plan, Gilbert from the Chamber who helped turn that business plan into a working executive summary, Ferra Aerospace in Grove who offered advice on intellectual property, Tactical Electronics in Broken Arrow who will manufacture and mass produce the system, and Dr. Robert Taylor at OSU who is in the process of developing mounting brackets.
Also through the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, Yoakum has been able to connect with Innovation to Enterprise (i2E) and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). These connections may open doors for investors and grant opportunities to help fund research and development.
“Steve and the Chamber have helped by providing office space and refining my executive summary,” said Yoakum. “But maybe more importantly, this setup has helped my confidence. As a young entrepreneur, I have run into many stumbling blocks and their support has been very beneficial in navigating through that.”
“We are working to meet Tom where he is,” added Gilbert. “With help of Northeast Tech and the Manufacturing Alliance, our network has grown and provided him with a usable work space that is affordable and collaborative. That’s the type of thing we hope to do more and more of now that we have this space downtown.”
Yoakum, a Grove resident, is thankful for the network he has built close to home.
“With the help of Northeast Tech and the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce, I have been able to utilize a network for everything from business plans and research to manufacturing and production, all within a 50-mile radius,” said Yoakum. “Everything is right in northeast Oklahoma. That was very important to me. I grew up here and this is where I want to make it.”
Which leads into the final purpose of Miami Main, which was to create a usable community space to bring people and networks together.
“In addition to office space and business incubators, we think this space will probably get rented for events and parties,” said Gilbert. “The Chamber hosts a lot of events and we hope community members will want to use it for everything from events like a 1MillionCups program to yoga classes.”
Art has been incorporated throughout the facility in an attempt to give it even more of a comfortable community feel. In addition to an art collection donated from a local family and a mural painted of the history of Miami panted by local artist and NEO art teacher Jessica Stout, Miami’s Arts and Humanities Council has agreed to curate art for the space. The Chamber plans to do a call for artists to create a second mural to depict future of Miami on the other wall.
Northeast Tech Afton Pre-Engineering Instructor Trisha Masterson and three of her students, Daniel Goodman from Grove and Kashen and Kaden Gibson from Afton, also attended the grand opening event. They brought and set up 3D printers to promote Pre-Engineering and showcase some of the things they do in class.
For more information on the professional networking opportunities available through Northeast Tech, contact the Business & Industry Services center at (918) 476-8252.