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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In economic development, our number one goal is for our community to have more jobs. So, how exactly does that happen?

Politicians always talk about job creation as if the government is responsible. I can tell you this, there is only one group truly responsible for job creation and that is businesses. In my roles as an economic developer, I certainly don’t create jobs, but rather simply work to clear the way for those jobs to be created.

A great example of job creation in Cape over the last year is the AT&T expansion of 150 jobs I’ve talked about on this show before. We have always worked to build relationships with AT&T, to maintain a business-friendly political climate and to help ensure they have a supply of qualified workers, but ultimately, those jobs were created completely the company itself.

One of the things we do is monitor the number of jobs being created in our community. The best report we’ve found shows that there were 418 net new jobs in the Cape Girardeau area in 2017. That’s not explosive growth, but it’s solid. That said, one report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated the Cape Girardeau area actually lost about 2,700 government jobs, which is just crazy. Considering there are only about 6,300 government jobs in our region, there is just no way we lost 1/3 of all those jobs with no major closures in 2017. I share this to show the challenge we face in actually tracking these numbers accurately.

So, what’s most important is that we continue to do the things that pave the way for job creation and forget about the rest. If you or your company has experienced anything preventing you from growing and adding jobs, I’d love to know about it. Reach out any time. 

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Institute for Organization Management (Institute) is the premier continuing education experience for association professionals. Since 1921, the Institute program has educated and empowered association executives with the knowledge and skills they need to be leaders in their organizations and industries.

The Institute curriculum is comprised of four week-long sessions. Each session is five days and is offered at five locations across the country annually. With courses on topics such as advocacy, media training, membership, finance, legal issues, human resources, and much more, Institute ultimately educates participants on all facets of running an association.

Association professionals who attend Institute receive an increased capacity to better lead their associations and influence their industries.

Institute was ultimately designed to provide individuals working in non-profit an increased capacity to better lead their organization, which is precisely why Cape Chamber President and CEO, John Mehner, completed the program, and Vice President of Business Development, Shad Burner, and Vice President of Community Development, Kim Voelker, are currently participating.

For more information about Institute, visit


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Some leaders say “what if we train our people and they leave?” Others say, “what if we don’t train our people and they stay?”

 Happy 2018 to all of you! As we enter a new year, like many, I find myself thinking about professional development. The saying about training isn’t new, but it is certainly still relevant. And there’s really no better time to think about professional development than the beginning of the year.

At the Chamber, we believe strongly in the value of training. Kim Voelker and I will be spending some time in Tucson this week at the Institute for Organizational Management. Aside from the fact that Tucson is not a bad place to be this time of year, the insights we’ve gained from this program are immeasurable.

After starting the program in January last year, we decided to work through at an accelerated rate. We will be third-year students this week and plan to graduate this summer in Madison, Wisconsin. We have met hundreds of leaders from Chambers and Associations all across the country and some from around the world.

From strategic planning to membership strategies and legal coursework, this program is the most comprehensive educational program in our industry. The classes are taught by the leading Chamber professionals from around the country, including, John Mehner, the Cape Chamber CEO, who taught courses in the past and completed the program several years ago.

As you move into 2018, don’t forget to take a step back from all of your day-to-day and think about what you and those around you can do to learn and grow this year.

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“A look at the history books would put one or both of you at the top for biggest construction projects in the county, highest total salaries, most use of hotel rooms by clients and vendors, and the list goes on.”


The President and CEOs of both Saint Francis Medical Center and SoutheastHEALTH talked business and collaboration at December’s First Friday Coffee program. The two healthcare systems can be credited with much of our market’s success, and the future is only looking brighter!


 Listen to the full conversation

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We are fortunate to have some incredible businesses in our community. Too many to highlight actually, but two recently received awards worth mentioning. 

The Drury Management team, part of the MidAmerica Hotel Corporation, was recognized as the Franchisee of the year at the Global Burger King Convention in Las Vegas. There are more than 13,000 Burger King Restaurants in 89 countries and the Drury team is actually the first Burger King Franchisee in North America to receive this award.

The Drury Restaurants organization has employed over 100,000 team members since 1972 when the first Burger King Restaurant opened on Broadway. In fact, there are plenty of leaders in this community who got their start as one the team members.

Drury restaurants has served over 300 million guests over the past 45 years. More than 60 million Whoppers!

Additionally, Plaza Tire recently received the 2017 Dealer of the Year Award from Modern Tire Dealer, the most prestigious award in the tire dealer industry.

Vernon “Pee Wee” Rhodes started the company 54 years ago in Cape. His sons, Mark and Scott now run the company which has grown tremendously. Plaza Tire now has 62 stores in four states generating more than $80 million in annual sales. With over 450 employees and more than 100,000 tires in their warehouse, Plaza Tire is the 18th largest tire dealer in the nation.

It is great to have both of these incredible companies headquartered here in Cape!

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The Community Improvement District, or CID, is a separate political subdivision with an appointed board and the power to impose sales and/or property taxes. CIDs can be formed by an ordinance within a governing body when more than 50% of the property owners sign a petition for it be created. Money collected by a CID may go toward public facilities or a variety of public services.

We have a downtown CID in Cape. It was created in 2014 after more than 50% of the property owners in the defined region signed the petition. Mayor Rediger appointed and the City Council approved seven of the property owners to serve on the board. Our downtown CID was established to provide trash and litter pickup, streetscape maintenance, holiday decorations, additional security personnel, security camera incentive programs, marketing and special events.

This example and the others I gave the last few weeks, are just a few ways we have used incentives in our region to make improvements and spur economic development. And having been involved even in a small way in some of these, I believe we are fortunate to have key leaders in our community, who are committed to utilizing these incentives appropriately and being good stewards of public money. 

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This is the second in a series of posts about economic development incentive programs. This week, I would like to briefly discuss Transportation Development Districts or TDDs. The State of Missouri allows certain groups to create a political subdivision that generates funds for transportation improvements through the collection of taxes. TDDs can be formed by registered voters, transportation authorities or property owners and must be approved by the circuit court of the county in which they are formed.

Let’s look at the Veteran’s Memorial Drive to better understand how TDDs work. In this case the entire tract of land had one owner. That owner elected to establish the TDD with a one-cent sales tax to be imposed on future sales. The developer was then responsible for paying all costs to build the road and other transportation infrastructure. After the development is complete, the TDD will begin receiving its portion of the revenue, which will then go back to the developer to reimburse for a portion of the original infrastructure development costs. 

This tool helped provide access and lay the groundwork for the development of the incredible new SportsPlex, which is already bringing visitors to our community. Those visitors stay in our hotels and eat at our restaurants, providing an economic boost to the entire community. With further development, we expect to continue seeing increased activity and City tax revenue as a result of this key regional project.

Check out MODOTs FAQs on TDDs here:

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