Columbia: The perfect place for a business person to turn a dream into a reality

Whether they grew up in Columbia or came from another country, whether they were attracted by a business opportunity or first came here to attend college, ambitious entrepreneurs find Columbia to be a perfect place to start a small business. Especially if your small business can fill a niche nobody else is filling.

Columbia has the kind of economy envied by towns large and small, nationally recognized educational institutions; a bustling health care sector; a vibrant and eclectic central commercial district; and a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. All these attributes work together to make Columbia a sought-after location for business.

The real Mexico in a real Midwestern eatery

Luis Ramirez was born in Jalisco Guadalajara, Mexico. His wife, Maria Hernandez, was born in Guanajuato, Mexico but grew up in Texas. But it’s at 1412 Forum Blvd. in Columbia that their restaurant, La Terraza Mexicana Grill, thrives by offering authentic Mexican cuisine, with many things that are very hard to find in other places in town.

“La Terraza is known for our unique take on Mexican street tacos,” Hernandez said. “La Terraza offers a variety in Mexican seafood cuisine. Yet Luis and I continue to explore with different ingredients to bring new entrees to the table.”

Ramirez said that after he moved from Mexico to America 18 years ago, he found work as a dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant in Texas. Maria, who had grown up in that area, was working as a waitress in the same establishment. They fell in love with both the restaurant business and each other.

They were exposed to Columbia when they came to visit Luis’s brother in the city. After they married in 2002, they decided it would be a great place to live and to start a restaurant of their own. Opening along Nifong Boulevard in 2005, that first location was named Taqueria El Rodeo.

After two years they decided to sell the taqueria to a family member and moved back to Texas, where they opened a restaurant named La Palmas. But Hernandez said they “always knew that Columbia would be a great place to do business and raise our three sons.” So when they were offered the opportunity to move back to Columbia and open what would become La Terraza, they jumped at the chance.

“We had learned a lot about the business by then,” Ramirez said. “Restaurants are a high-risk field. But if you really love what you’re doing, you’re going to be successful.”

For more information on La Terraza Mexicana Grill, visit or call (573) 445-9444.

St. Louis natives find perfect atmosphere for business and living

Both Trish Koetting and her husband Hoss which his nickname comes from the fact that many people think he looks like the character Hoss Cartwright on the old TV series Bonanza grew up in St. Louis. But they didn’t meet until they both enrolled in the University of Missouri.

The two then got married, and, like so many Mizzou grads, they decided Columbia was not only a good place to get an education, but a great place to build a life.

The Koettings own and operate Hoss’s Market & Rotisserie at 1010A Club Village Drive in Columbia. Trish describes the place as “a gourmet market and rotisserie that uses fresh ingredients to offer delicious, made-from-scratch meals for dine-in or carry out.” This includes a full-line butcher shop that smokes USDA prime beef and other meats for pick-up or dining in.

Like the Hernandeze’s, the Koetting’s met while working in another restaurant. “Hoss worked at the Boone Tavern for 20 years and Trish worked there for 16 before we started Hoss’s Market in 2002,” Trish Koetting said. The market has since grown from 15 employees to 25 and has expanded its building space. ›

Koetting said Hoss’s slant toward preparing and selling food really has no competitors in the Columbia area. She said it was an easy decision to stay in Columbia and raise their two children.

“It’s always fun to live in a college town. This is a vibrant, young community and a great place to raise your kids. Columbia has all the benefits of living in a big city and also all the advantages of living in a smaller town.”

Koetting said she and Hoss also have found big payoffs from belonging to the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “You meet a natural group of other business people you can market to. Most people in the chamber are very like-minded and 85 percent own other small businesses. So you learn a lot from networking with other people who are in the same position you’re in.”

For more information about Hoss’s Market & Rotisserie, visit or call (573) 815-9711.

University grads stay in town, find new career

Like many Columbia residents, Allan Moore says that he “went to the University of Missouri and stayed.”

In fact, so did Tom Shryock, his original partner in Columbia-based Moore & Shryock Real Estate Appraisers.

While attending Mizzou, though, neither had any idea they eventually would spend four-plus decades appraising real estate. Moore, who had grown up in a small country town 200 miles from Columbia and had worked on a farm, majored in agricultural economics. Shryock, six years older, also had grown up in a small Missouri farm town. He played football for Mizzou and studied toward a career in parks and recreation.

By the time Moore graduated in 1977, Shryock had given up the recreation business. The two found themselves working for the same real estate firm in Columbia. In 1984 they left to start Moore & Shryock.

Three other partners now share ownership with Moore Kyle Newland, J.D. Moran and Kevin Reynolds. The firm has grown to 10 employees eight appraisers plus two support staff. Three partners hold the MAI designation. The firm has offices in Columbia and Jefferson City, but “we work pretty much statewide, and occasionally in adjoining states,” Moore said. “Our specialty is the Mid-Missouri market and we appraise all types of property.”

He said the firm’s customers include corporate and government decision-makers, lenders, investors, developers, property owners and Realtors. Its valuations help customers make decisions about mortgage financing, estate planning, buying/selling, condemnation cases, right-of-way and easement acquisitions, tax assessment challenges, divorce settlements and employee relocation.

“Even while I was going to the university, I always wanted to live in Columbia,” Moore said. “I thought it would be a good town to live in and do business in, and that has proven to be true. Over 40 years it has doubled in size. Besides the university here, you have the state capital just 30 miles away, and within about an hour’s drive you have the Lake of the Ozarks and many other great towns.”

For more information about Moore & Shryock, visit or call (573) 874-1207.

Building Missouri’s future

MU Health Care’s South Providence Medical Building in Columbia. The Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance building in Columbia. The Special Olympics Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City. The Plaza 803 office-retail building adjacent to Boone County Courthouse. Even the much-discussed Clary-Shy Agricultural Park that will provide a permanent home for the Columbia Farmers Market starting in spring 2019.

One thread runs through all these Mid-Missouri landmarks: They were designed by Simon Oswald Architecture, one of Mid-Missouri’s landmark firms in that field.

“We do a variety of commercial projects – health care, education, civic, corporate, new construction, renovations, you name it,” said SOA’s president and co-owner, Jen Hedrick.

She said the firm traces its roots to 1987, when architect Shelley Simon and interior designer Kathy Walther founded what was then called Simon + Walther Inc. With Walther’s departure in the late ’90s, and Bill Oswald’s increased ownership, the name became Simon Oswald Architecture. Hedrick joined the team in 1995, became an owner in 2005, and became the managing principal when Shelley Simon retired in 2010.

“I was born and raised in Marshall, Missouri and studied architecture at Drury University in Springfield,” Hedrick said. “I actually came to Columbia 25 years ago to work for another architectural firm. I’ve made it my home – a fantastic place to raise my three kids and be part of a thriving community.”

SOA now has eight architects and 11 total employees. It serves Columbia and an area about 60 miles in radius around it.

Hedrick said the Special Olympics Training for Life Campus, which serves Missouri’s 14,000 Special Olympians, is a particular source of pride.

“It is the only facility of its type in the world. It combines a healthy-athlete component. Special Olympics offers dental, hearing, vision and physical health screenings to their athletes. It is focused on the overall well-being of its users on a year-round basis” Hendrick said.

Hedrick said she is delighted to live in Columbia.

“It’s the perfect-sized community. It has many of the more exciting features of a metropolitan area but it’s easy to navigate. We have a fair amount of entertainment – shows, concerts and sports because of the University – plus lots of community activities like the Roots N Blues N BBQ Music Festival, True/False Film Festival and Art in the Park. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the MKT Trail, one of my favorite community assets.”

For more information about Simon Oswald Architecture, visit or call (573) 443-1407.


Columbia’s business climate remains strong in part because the community offers a variety of resources to both existing and new companies. The nonprofit group Regional Economic Development Inc. works with businesses as they locate, expand and grow in Columbia and Boone County.

For more information, visit The University of Missouri Extension Business Development Program offers assistance to businesses at every stage in their development, from the original concept all the way through to maturity. For more information, go to

The REDI Innovation Hub offers business counseling, events and special programs in order to facilitate and maintain what President Stacey Button describes as “an incredible entrepreneurial ecosystem here
in Columbia.” Businesses can apply to join the REDI Innovation Hub at

Another source of assistance for entrepreneurial start-ups is the Columbia-based Missouri Innovation Center, which offers a wide array of services including mentoring, research and financing. The organization also operates the University
of Missouri Life Science Business Incubator.
For more information, go to

Nationwide applause

Recent analyses in national publications ranked Columbia as one of the “Best Places to Buy a Forever Home,” one of the “Best Places for Millennials That They Can Actually Afford” and one of the “Best Places for Women to Have a Career.”

In 2018 Forbes ranked Columbia 24th best in its annual list of “The 200 Best Small Places for Business and Careers,” and ranked its educational resources the 9th best of all small cities. rated Columbia 16th best city in America for entrepreneurs. ›
The website wrote, “A small, vibrant city with a booming high-tech sector, ‘the Athens of Missouri’ ranks in the top 10 for small business loans on our list and the top 15 for unemployment rate, high-wage job growth, affordable housing and food spending.”

“We have such a strong variety of businesses we work with,” said REDI’s Button. “Large corporations, small start-ups and everything in between.”

It’s not just small businesses that are growing in Columbia, either. 3M Columbia continues to add product lines and lead manufacturing and supply chain efforts for several 3M products.

In 2018 Kraft Heinz completed a $100+ million expansion at a time when the company was closing other plants around the country. The Columbia facility produces up to one million pounds of Oscar Mayer hot dogs daily.

Dana Light Axle Products recently invested $39 million in an expansion of its Columbia auto parts factory, adding 135 jobs. Aurora Organic Dairy chose Columbia for its $106 million milk processing facility that will begin operations in 2019, creating 150 new jobs. American Outdoor Brands constructed a $55 million national distribution center in Boone County that will create more than
150 jobs.

A 24/7 District

Columbia’s downtown area, known as The District, is one of the area’s key commercial engines. Bounded by the University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stephens College, and encompassing 50 square blocks, The District is home to hundreds of businesses, city and county government buildings, and a diverse array of residential housing.

The District hosts a variety of community events each year, from holiday celebrations to music and film festivals to art expos. More than 20,000 people live within one mile of the area, and more than 23,000 enter The District each day to work. This population density, combined with the nearby student population, creates a truly 24/7 economy in The District.

“The District represents a diverse and active community of shops, bars, restaurants, entertainment, nightlife, studios, galleries, arts and music in Columbia,” said Robert Hohenstein, executive director of the Downtown Community Improvement District (CID), an independent organization that works to keep the downtown vital.

One challenge that faces areas like The District is the need to balance “day” and “night” economies. The District, home to many popular restaurants and bars, boasts a vibrant nightlife. It is home also to many locally owned retail shops that operate during the day. “There isn’t that much time between the closing of bars at 2 a.m. and the arrival of the first customers at our coffee shops,” Hohenstein said. “We make it a priority to make sure The District is fresh, clean and ready to go between the two populations.”

Largest Employers

Company Name | Full Time Employees
University of Missouri | 10592
MU Health Care | 5431
Columbia Public Schools | 1900
Shelter Insurance Companies-Main Office | 1800
Veterans United Home Loans | 1442
Boone Hospital Center | 1406
City of Columbia | 1390
Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital | 1089
State Farm – Columbia Operations Center | 750
Columbia College | 450
Bartlett & West, Inc | 425
MBS Textbook Exchange, LLC | 357
Boone County Government | 353
EAG Laboratories | 350
Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Boonville | 340
MidwayUSA | 330
Dana Corporation | 328
United States Postal Service| 305
Hawthorn Bank | 300
Central Bank of Boone County | 295
College of Veterinary Medicine | 275
Columbia Daily Tribune / Tribune Publishing Co. | 270
University of Missouri Department of Intercollegiate Athletics | 264
City of Columbia-Water & Light | 253
CenturyLink | 253
Moberly Area Community College (MACC) | 250
Schneider Electric | 245
Missouri Employers Mutual | 245
Atkins Inc. Commercial Cleaning, Turf, Tree and Pest Management | 240
Hy-Vee – Conley | 239
Woodhaven | 238
American Air Filter International | 236
Rusk Rehabilitation Center | 223
MFA Incorporated | 220
Joe Machens Lincoln | 209
Otscon, Inc. | 200