Economic director updates county business outlook

Thursday, February 13, 2003

STE GENEVIEVE -- The Ste. Genevieve's Industrial Development Corp. met Jan. 23 for its annual meeting and election of officers.

The IDC board members elected the current slate of officers: President Mark Shaughnessy, Vice President Tom Greminger, Treasurer Robert Rottler and Secretary Dave Weber. .

Economic Development Director Marv Harman delivered a keynote address, summing up the activity for his office during 2002 and noting job creation success here despite the loss of about 70,000 jobs statewide during the same time frame.

Holcim Cement's Tom Vandenberg, human resources manager, gave an update on progress of the Ste. Genevieve County plant project, noting that the company is anticipating securing all necessary permits from various state regulatory agencies during 2003.

"The most significant success of the E.D. Office in 2002 was the addition of an estimated 180 jobs for the county," said Harman. "This is a result of the opening of Sabreliner in the former GrandPa's building and several other smaller contributions. Sabreliner was announced in the spring of 2002 with a total of 60 anticipated jobs. This number currently stands at 85 with more on the horizon."

Harman said other job additions have included 25 at ALCO and 22 at Tower Rock, another 40 for the larger facilities of Country Mart and Save-A-Lot, plus eight for the Movie Gallery. He said it is a sad commentary that the 200 jobs for Holcim are still pending after three years.

"Mississippi Lime Company announced in 2002 that company updates such as the new, state-of-the-art bagging facilities and the proposed additions of two new rotary kilns will cut their employment numbers by 100 by the end of 2003," said Harman. "In speaking with MLC management, the end of 2002 had already shown around 60 employees preparing for retirement.

"If another 40 anticipate retirement at the end of 2003, attrition will have taken care of the job loss at MLC. These are still job losses, but the impact will be lessened considerably if job cuts from the payroll will not be required."

Concerning potential tourism draws, Harman said that this fall Ste. Genevieve County will be recognized as "Missouri's new wine country." Joe Scott's Crown Valley Winery and Hank Johnson's Chaumette Winery will be joined by Jack Russell's Charleville Winery and a fourth operation owned by Marty Stroussin, Cave Vineyard, with vineyards in the area overlooking the Saltpeter Cave. These four will join Ste. Genevieve Winery to create what will be a five-winery drawing card.

"Discovery Ridge Environmental Studies, the campus of DePaul University (Chicago) near Crown Valley Winery in the Coffman area, is certain to be another draw in the county," said Harman. "We are simply not certain at this juncture how much of a draw this will become.

"The five tigers slated to be on hand initially, and the potential for more will certainly draw visitors, but we have yet to be informed just how open to the public this new campus will become. We have been informed that living quarters to accommodate as many as 90 college students is on the drawing board, plus college staff for the environmental learning center.

Harman said the plus for Ste. Genevieve County is that a major university will have a presence here, and the county can anticipate potential visitation and many more opportunities as the project continues to develop.

Harman said he and Chanucy Buchheit of Semo Regional Planning recently met with Ron Hermann of Sabreliner to ascertain if additional jobs for Sabreliner might mean additional funding for the roadway through the city's Parc Ste. Genevieve business park. Harman said Hermann agreed to work with Semo Regional Planning and the Ste. Genevieve Office of Economic Development to apply for an additional $100,000 grant based on new jobs created over the next two years. It is anticipated the grant application will be filed in a timely fashion, resulting in potentially additional monies for roadway construction.

According to Harman, he and Buchheit also met with Randy LaMotte, president of Biltbest Corp., on Jan. 22 to discuss potential money available for training and cross-training of Biltbest employees. The number of employees is about 200, with 30 to 40 additional expected to be added next summer to meet manufacturing demands.

"The Biltbest sales force has been bolstered from nine to 19, so additional sales are anticipated," said Harman "Last year the company reportedly showed a 31 percent increase in sales and an even higher volume is planned for 2003."

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