From the Chamber Chair
Janet Weckenborg, Capital Region Medical Center
Planting seeds and harvesting fruit – the story of economic development
Spring is the time we typically put some seeds and plants in the ground to get our yards and gardens going after a typical Missouri winter. This year is a little different in that our winter wasn’t as cold and spring seemed to arrive and leave and arrive again. The past couple of months have been a little different for the Chamber also. While we are focusing on some new opportunities, it seems that seeds planted months and years ago are starting to show some life.
First, what a wonderful moment for the Jefferson City schools! I know the headlines ran last week, but take a moment to reflect; be proud of this positive outcome for our students, an idea that began with input from citizens months ago, a campaign that focused on reaching out to voters in dozens of educational sessions (thank you Dr. Linthacum), and in door-to-door canvasing, a strong social media presence and most importantly a strong voter turnout. The right to vote on issues is a foundational element to our country’s culture and a tribute to those who serve every day to protect the right to do so. It was a win for today and tomorrow. Thank you to the many volunteers that made this campaign so positive and Congratulations JCPS!!!
Previously, I spoke about the blessing of our city being the state capital and how we can harness some wins for our location. If you’ve been following the news you know that progress on the MSP site has come to the table in the Senate and was passed on to the next level. This idea brings the issue of transferring part of the old MSP site to the city with an opportunity to see some development in the area, so that the vision of the site as a commercial and visitor destination can be realized. It takes infrastructure which the city and county are already envisioning and it takes economic development ideas but with some nurturing this project is finally looking very promising. Thank you Senator Kehoe, Mayor Carrie Tergin and Diane Gilllespie of the JC Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for your leadership on this issue.
Another idea that is gaining traction with the State is developing a structure for the cyber security institute. Envisioned as a not-for-profit institute with a “focus on collaboration between public, private, state and higher education sites to provide training, service and research” into the ever-expanding threats posed to our businesses and private databases. The institute would be funded under a tiered membership model with oversight by a multi-industrial board. This model is similar to one already in play in the Boston area which the Chamber identified and visited last year. We will continue to facilitate the conversations with the State and are planning visits to those potential corporate partners in the Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield areas over the next month. Thank you to Dan Westhues and Randy Allen for their leadership on this issue. This is a cooperative solution to a shared problem.
Another idea that is gaining some momentum is the feasibility of a river port for movement of goods to and from our area. Surprisingly, the location of a port within our area is a question frequently asked by companies looking to locate in our area. A growing area of interest in barge and port usage is coming from those companies looking at reducing the carbon imprint that our current freight process produces. The Chamber is developing a plan for cooperative funding of a study which would evaluate the freight market and financial feasibility, a site assessment, and economic impact. The study will take several months so we won’t see the results of this study until late summer. Remember, not every seed you plant produces something immediately.
Seeds planted a long time ago by previous Chamber Boards in the form of land acquisition upon which to support industrial and commercial development are starting to pop. We currently have interest in Chamber owned locations on the east and west side of the city. Some of the parties are waiting on contractual awarding and others will be planning their announcements soon. We are excited to see the interest and thankful for the foresight of previous boards in identifying and securing these growth locations.
None of these projects would happen without a dedicated staff and members who assist in facilitating the discussions. Together these efforts truly meet our mission, “..to promote economic vitality and strength in the Jefferson City area and be a leading public policy advocate for business people; to provide valuable services to our members; and, fully participate and partner in activities that improve the economy and quality of life.”
Enjoy the spring, count your blessings and thanks for your support as we continue “to empower the dreams”.