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John Mehner defines “hub” as the effective center of an activity, region, or network.

We often talk about the Cape/Jackson metro as a regional hub. But exactly why do we say that and what does it really mean. Let’s dive deeper.

We are the largest city between St. Louis and Memphis north and south, and between Clarksville or Evansville and Springfield east and west. Our daytime population often approaches 100,000 as we become a bevy of activity.

Several things drive this regional hub status. Education is one reason. Southeast Missouri State University leads this category but is also supported by other regional draws including the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, Metro Business College, Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing, and private high schools.

Healthcare facilities are also a major factor. Led by Saint Francis Healthcare System and SoutheastHEALTH, our area also has Landmark Hospital, a VA Home, and several other retirement and assisted living facilities. Others are on the horizon including a new VA clinic and a psychiatric hospital.

Shopping options are plentiful and result in more than $1.4 billion dollars of retail sales for our county. And the hospitality, restaurant, and recreational activities are diverse, strong, and recognized as industry leaders in their own way. Midamerica Hotels, Drury Hotels, and the new SportPlex have all received national recognition.

Think about this the next time you complain about traffic and parking. Pause, smile, and be thankful we are the regional hub of Southeast Missouri.
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It is a difficult thing to define but a very important component of a vibrant community.

Quality of life is a much used phrase in the marketing materials of just about every area. But exactly what is quality of life and how do you measure it? And are there basic components that matter to everyone?

Several indicators are widely recognized in determining quality of life. They are: education, the economy, public safety, natural environment, health, social environment, government, and recreation / culture. These are important to all community members regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

It is important to be able to measure quality and success and, in today’s world, it is easier to do now than ever. Job growth, crime statistics, graduation rates, education opportunities, air quality, and recreation programs are just a few categories where numbers are readily available.

So how do we stack up in the Cape/Jackson metro? Very well, I’d say. Time does not permit me to review our successes and opportunities in each of the eight categories, but let’s mention a couple.

The economy is doing well. Access to all types of healthcare is tremendous. City and county government are strong and fiscally responsible. The University adds a lot of cultural opportunities. Air and water quality in the area are very good.

Take some time to notice the happenings in these specific areas so you can comment about our local quality of life.
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Redevelopment is a very important piece of an area’s economic development success.

In many ways, the Cape area is experiencing a renaissance. Certainly everyone is familiar with the redevelopment of the former Marquette Hotel, H&H building, and the old car dealership adjacent to the north. Those buildings now are home to a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Baristas, the Chamber of Commerce, the CVB, Old Town Cape, Codefi, and many other businesses. But have you noticed what’s happening at the Town Plaza? Some new ownership has brought exciting changes to this mid-town location.

Andy Patel purchased many of the buildings and much of the land on the northeast side of the Plaza and is redeveloping the former Venue into a family entertainment center called Dogwood Social House. Along with food and beverages, it contains a large video arcade, a several lane bowling alley, simulation games, karaoke rooms, a cigar lounge, and much more.

Jack Ford purchased the former Sears building and moved his Slumberland Furniture store there. In addition, Laughing Gas Comedy N2O will be opening soon on the west side of the building close to Midori. And you can’t miss the other new additions to the Plaza. Harbor Freight, Planet Fitness, and Athletico Physical Therapy have opened in the last year. And recently both Krispy Kreme and Rosati’s Pizza have announced they’ll open soon.

Thanks to those who believe in our community and take risks. We are redeveloping nicely and we look forward to even more.
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Shop Local First
Holiday shopping season is upon us. November and December are huge months for the retail industry. Each one of us plays an important role in the success of our retail businesses. We realize it is convenient to order from Amazon or some other mega online retail source. But before you do so, please consider what the local shops have to offer.

A wide array of products and specialty items are available in the Cape Girardeau metro area. We have many national retailers and a tremendous mix of local, one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques. All of these places are staffed by your friends, neighbors, church members, and community risk takers. These folks would love an opportunity to do business with you, and it is so important to give them that chance.

You see, when you shop in the local area, you are supporting the jobs and livelihoods of all of these people. And also very importantly, your sales tax dollars support local governments which provide critical services including roads, police, and fire.

Ultimately, all we are asking is to please take a minute and consider directing your holiday spending to area businesses as much as possible.
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The newest segment of economic development is alive and well in the Cape Girardeau area.

For a long time, economic development was all about recruitment of new business and industry – period. Then the importance of business retention and expansion was realized and tourism entered the discussion resulting in economic development efforts being described as a three legged stool.

In the last decade, a fourth major area of prominence has made its way into these conversations. Entrepreneurship is a critical focus for all successful job creation efforts. Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem and supporting start-ups plays a prominent role in long lasting job creation.

The Chamber is invested in local efforts along these lines. We work closely with Southeast Missouri State University which now has a major in Entrepreneurship and also operates Catapult Creative Center. Giving students both in class teaching and hands-on learning opportunities is reaping benefits.

Codefi is a private co-working space solely focused on providing the infrastructure and support needed to develop and maintain the environment necessary for entrepreneurs. Through Codefi’s efforts, the area has benefitted from 40 start-ups resulting in more than 130 jobs and more than $14 million in equity investments. The Chamber is a significant investor in Codefi and their programs.

This piece of economic development is here to stay and we are looking forward to our continued partnerships.
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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 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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