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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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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.

Resources:
https://www.fema.gov/media-library/collections/357
https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/manage-your-business/prepare-emergencies
https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy07/sh-16618-07/sm_business_emergency_checklist.pdf
https://www.score.org/content/small-business-disaster-preparedness-resources
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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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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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