Where do I begin?
Published: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
By: Randy Allen, President/CEO
Where do I begin
After 15 years (14 years and eight months to be exact) at the Chamber how do you begin to put into 700 or so words all of the experiences, relationships, successes, failures and projects that I have been a part of during my tenure as President and CEO. Well the answer is you can’t. So, I will just start at the beginning. Why did I want this job? Having grown up in JCMO, and worked two previous jobs related to my profession I was ready to do something different that would have an impact on the heart and soul of the community. The Chamber presidency was and is a job that combines two very important aspects of prosperity; 1) a very unique business association with functions of individual rewards and recognition and 2) the collective ability of those members to shape economic and community growth strategy thru the programs and projects for short term and for the long term.
. What I came to find out pretty quickly was that the key to success was being able to leverage the people associated with our nearly 2,000 Chamber businesses as well as the team of City, County, and State government stakeholders. After some early assessments in 2006 we determined that our strategy was out of date and our resources were insufficient to carry out a new plan. With the stakeholders as partners, we completed the first economic development strategic plan for the community in nearly 3 decades. That plan recommended that we move to seek additional funds from our City and County partners to hire additional staff and amplify work on community development and existing Business programs.
Our efforts in business attraction were already pretty robust but it was clear to many of us that after the great recession of 2008/2009 that companies were not in the same mindset to expand their businesses to new locations with large investments and hundreds of jobs. This was traditional “ED” but had changed forever. At the same time another challenge was that our number one employer (state government) was on a slow and consistent decline in jobs as budget restrictions continued to squeeze the FTE count. For years those jobs were ballast of our economy.
A concerted effort was made to develop a new strategy to focus on facilitating growth and expansion of our existing employer base. From 2007 to 2019, 45 projects were facilitated, creating 1760 new jobs with an annual payroll of $57m and over $300m of new investment in plant and equipment.
Another aspect of the strategy was to facilitate large and impactful community projects. These projects came as a strategic look into the future. Three projects were selected to move forward: the Missouri State Penitentiary redevelopment project, development of