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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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