Location, location, location – the phrase is paramount in real estate AND in economic development.

The state of Missouri is in a great geographic position with its location in the center of the United States. This should be a huge advantage in economic development. We are rich in many transportation resources including rivers, rail, highways, airports, and river ports. However, our transportation infrastructure is struggling.

Within 500 miles of the state of Missouri is 43% of the U.S. population, 41% of buying power, and 44% of both wholesale trade and manufacturing plants. However, our infrastructure is deteriorating and, in many places, unsafe. We have the seventh largest transportation system but we are only 46th in revenue per mile. We have the fourth lowest gas and diesel taxes in the nation and they haven’t been raised in decades.

But in November, we have a chance to change all that. Missouri voters will be asked to approve a 2.5% gas tax increase for four consecutive years resulting in approximately $410 million each year for transportation in Missouri. Of that, $288 million would go to fund the Missouri Highway patrol and $122 million would go directly toward local transportation projects. The Highway Patrol funding frees up more of the State Road Fund for much needed statewide projects.

This is a responsible way to finally address our need for additional transportation funding. Please remember to vote in November.
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Over the past 18 months, there have been several notable expansions from our existing businesses. These include an almost completed 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility in the Greater Cape Girardeau Business Park by Idyllic Enterprises and SI03, 30 – 35 new jobs at Schafer’s Electrical Enclosures, 150 new jobs from AT&T, and numerous hospitality and restaurant projects. Even several of our new businesses are results of working with existing developers.

Statistics show even though start-up companies and new businesses are gaining in overall job creation, 60 – 70% of new jobs still come from existing business. The Chamber conducts a BRE (business retention and expansion) program continually. This is accomplished through meetings with existing business representatives both formally and informally. We gather information on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of both the area and the company. Armed with this information, we can address issues and advocate on behalf of our business partners resulting in reduced impediments to growth and leading to more stability in our business base and, ultimately, more investment and jobs.

Keep in mind, a complete economic development plan still includes efforts to recruit new business and industry and support an entrepreneurial climate conducive to start-up ventures. But let there be no doubt, growth from our existing business base is critical to success.
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There is a silent killer of many businesses in the United States and our area is certainly not immune.

Statistics show us 80 – 90 percent of the U.S. businesses are family owned. However, less than one third will survive into the second generation and roughly 10 percent will make it to the third.

Business succession planning is a process whereby owners research and decide upon a plan to move forward in case of the event of death, illness, or simply transition. It generally uses estate planning strategies and there is no “one size fits all” plan. Careful consideration must be given to determine the best options. Without a plan in place, there is a high degree of the possibility of failure.

Many factors must be examined. There are issues of estate taxes, liquidity, ownership percentages, family disagreements, and capabilities of management. The uncertainty of a transition can affect the business internally among employees and externally with customers. It is so important to develop a plan and communicate to your team you have one in place.

There are many succession planning vehicles and succession planning concerns. It is important to seek the advice of an expert on such matters and do it sooner rather than later. Many believe business succession planning is at least as important, and maybe more important, than individual estate planning. Employees, customers, and family members are relying on a smooth transition. Don’t let them down.
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For almost two decades we have enjoyed a successful partnership resulting in very tangible results.

Old Town Cape was established in 1999 and the Cape Chamber was at the table helping to get things organized. OTC is an accredited Main Street Program for downtown revitalization based on the four point approach of promotion, design, economic vitality, and organization. Certainly Old Town Cape has thrived in the last several years under the leadership of Director Marla Mills.

Representatives from the Chamber, the City of Cape, the University, and OTC meet at least quarterly as a downtown development team. We work on infrastructure, planning, and economic development issues. Just this year, the city completed an update of the Downtown Strategic Plan in partnership with many local groups and interested individuals. The plan is not a blueprint, but does offer ideas and guidance on future development.

Downtown Cape has experienced a revitalization not seen for quite some time. The new Marquette Tech District has facilitated an entrepreneurial culture resulting in excitement for both living and working downtown. Both the Chamber and OTC are located in the old Marquette Hotel and attached Carriage House. This allows for frequent interaction directly strengthening the partnership.

The establishment of a Tax Increment Financing District has led to renewed interest in redevelopment downtown and the possibility of a project at the old Esquire Theater has everyone excited. The Chamber/OTC partnership is alive and well!
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The Cape Chamber pleased to announce our new website, Designed as a hub of information, this website will serve as a valuable tool for both human resources professionals and individuals looking to relocate to the Cape Girardeau Area. 

Talent attraction and retention is becoming increasingly challenging for regional companies competing with larger markets across the United States. Through retention visits with major employers in the Cape Girardeau Area, Cape Chamber staff confirmed the Cape Girardeau region is no exception to this trend.

With this in mind, the Cape Chamber developed the Cape Is Home talent attraction campaign. hosts a variety of useful information including way of life, opportunities, things to do, options for education and housing, and more.

“We are excited about our new website launch and the robust information it provides for those looking to call Cape home,” said John Mehner, President and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce. “We believe that this new site will allow visitors to better understand all that our community has to offer, while also serving as a tremendous tool for HR professionals recruiting new talent to our area as well.”


For more information, contact:

John Mehner
President & CEO, Cape Chamber
220 N. Fountain
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
(573) 335-3312 |

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The Chamber is a stand-alone not for profit, membership organization. We spend 100% of our time on economic development and community betterment issues.

We are not part of any governmental entity. We exist because of, and FOR, our members. The Chamber is not simply the people who work with me at 220 North Fountain Street. The Chamber is our membership working in concert with our team.

It is through our member’s support we are able to accomplish the many things we do every day. It is the Chamber, working closely with many local partners, that takes the lead on business recruitment and expansion efforts. It is the Chamber that takes the lead on advocating at the local, state, and national level for a strong business environment. It is the Chamber that takes the lead on developing tomorrow’s local leaders, area young professionals, and working women. It is the Chamber that takes the lead on many local community development issues. And it is the Chamber that has been doing this for more than 100 years. The Chamber is uniquely positioned to lead, build partnerships, and get things done. All these things positively impact regional business.

Listen to Let’s Talk Business each week on KRCU. Read the local papers and watch local television. The Chamber and its accomplishments are front and center.

Each of you has an opportunity to be part of something very special. Become a member of the Cape Chamber during our 2018 Membership Drive and receive: 1) waived $25 enrollment fee , 2) $25 Cape Chamber Cash, and 3) promotion of your business on the Cape Chamber's Facebook Page.

Call Dana Brune with any questions at 573-35-3312 or apply online today!

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Did you know each of you can play an important role in the economic development efforts for our area?

A full economic development effort includes an existing business retention and expansion plan, recruitment of new business, entrepreneurial ecosystem development, AND the business of conventions, visitors, and tourism. YOU can play a direct role in that last category – the Tourism Industry.

Research shows tourism is more than a 16.5 billion dollar business for our state with employment in excess of 308,000 jobs. Yes, 8.3% of all jobs in Missouri are related to tourism. Fourteen percent of visitors are doing business related activities while 86% are leisure travelers. That’s where you come in.

If you are in a business or service club with an affiliation to a regional or state-wide organization, look for ways to bring a convention to Cape. With the recent addition of the Drury Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, we are having much success in this arena.

Individually, think about hosting a family reunion, class reunion, or just inviting out of state friends to enjoy the things our area has to offer. And don’t forget traveling youth sports. If your sons or daughters play in that world, work with your teams to host events here in Cape.

Please call on our Visit Cape team to help you with your efforts. They can assist with hotel arrangements, schedule planning, and other details. They can also provide welcome bags and work with you to ensure a great experience for all our visitors.
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Too often I’ve heard some version of the following comment when it comes to disasters: Oh, don’t worry. The odds of something like that happening here are slim to none.

Disasters can be man-made or natural. Either way, the percentage of businesses that don’t survive significant disasters is alarming. Many simply aren’t prepared and can’t make the recovery necessary to keep operating.

We live in a great state and an awesome community. But we have been reminded in just the last 30 days we face challenges in this area from floods, tornadoes, damaging winds, and even man made situations like occurred in Marshall County Kentucky. So let’s talk about what you can do.

Like so many other aspects of your business, the best approach to dealing with disasters is proper planning and preparation. Like me, most of you are not disaster preparedness experts and you need help. Fortunately, many resources are available to us both online, and in person. Several organizations have excellent guidelines and planning documents to help. Just of few of these are the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross, and locally provided CERT training. In addition, law enforcement agencies provide training for active shooter situations.

Here’s my challenge. If you don’t have a disaster plan for your business, make a commitment now. Assemble some resources and really decide to prepare yourself and your co-workers for whatever may come your way. It gives you the best chance to continue your success after dealing with a setback.

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Government, everyone’s favorite topic. OK, maybe not, but it is an important topic and one we try to stay updated on.

Part of the chamber’s service to the business community is to build relationships with local, state and federal elected and full-time government officials. Most of the time our businesses don’t need anything from the government, but when they do, it can be really impactful on their business. Whether it’s new regulation hindering them or new proposed legislation that would make it easier for them to add jobs, it’s important for us to be there when it counts.

To do this well, we maintain engagement with organizations such as the Missouri and U.S. Chambers, which provide important access. We also serve on statewide organizations such as the Missouri Economic Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri. And of course we maintain relationships directly with elected officials as well.

Here’s what we don’t do as a chamber. We don’t allow political candidates access to our members, including current elected officials campaigning for re-election. We believe our focus should be less on politics and more on policy and governing.

If your business is facing a critical issue with the Department of Natural Resources or you need to talk to someone with authority in the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, whatever it might be, reach out to us. I certainly can’t guarantee we will be able to solve the challenge, but I can guarantee we can put you in contact with the right people.

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Cape’s regional hub status has long been an important part of our identity, one we must work to maintain in the years ahead. 

Growing up in Bernie, Mo., we made trips to Cape a few times a year. We shopped for clothes, books, cars, ate at the restaurants and enjoyed much of the retail offerings in town. It was an hour-long drive for us and this was certainly something many people from the area did on a regular basis.

When we look at our visitors today, retail is a major driver, but we also have people traveling to town for healthcare, entertainment and education among other things. Additionally, our business community attracts thousands of workers who commute to Cape every day. Our population actually balloons from 40,000 to around 100,000 each day.

These visitors generate a great deal of tax revenue that provides funding for critical services in Cape Girardeau. However, with the rapid shift to online shopping, Cape risks losing some of these individuals who travel here to shop as I did as a kid - individuals who now have many more options available to them online.

Moving forward, it is more and more important to ensure we are improving and expanding the services that bring people to Cape. Whether it’s offering world-class health care and top-quality higher education or entertainment that gets people talking and reliable passenger air service, the resulting visitors will remain a critical part of our local economy. 

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