Using our resources: Three Rivers attempting to find best uses of assets

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

By Dr. John Cooper

From the rocky Ozark foothills to the rich Mississippi Delta farmland, Southeast Missouri is a region blessed with vast and diverse resources.

More than one-third of Missouri's cash crops are grown in the Bootheel. Our counties rank among the top in the state in the production of commodities like wheat, rice and cotton. Our region is one of the nation's most diverse agricultural areas, with every major row crop and commodity except sugar and citrus grown right here in Southeast Missouri.

The timberlands in our Ozarks provide a source of jobs and economic activity drawing visitors to our beautiful forests and streams and lumber mills that produce pallets and other wood products.

Southeast Missouri's industrial base has grown to be as varied as our people. From Briggs and Stratton producing engines in Poplar Bluff to ArvinMeritor's mufflers in Dexter to crafting wood cabinets at WW Wood in Dudley, our industries manufacture high quality products that are shipped all over the world.

But the one ingredient that makes all of these industries successful is our most important resource: our people. Throughout Southeast Missouri, the success of our communities lies in our people. At Three Rivers Community College, we are equally committed to the people of our region by providing the very best in educational opportunities.

For 40 years Three Rivers Community College has provided high-quality education options at the most affordable cost. The education Three Rivers delivers has helped people in our area become better equipped to move through career pathways to greater success and to face real-world challenges. Workers who have taken advantage of education opportunities have sharpened their competitive edge and are able to open new doors, advance in their careers, and make their dreams a reality.

We at Three Rivers are always mindful of our responsibility to the region. We take seriously our responsibility to wisely use the resources graciously given to us. To that end, the TRCC Board of Trustees took steps toward the wise use of resources.

Earlier this year we learned that the cost of using Poplar Bluff's Black River Coliseum for Three Rivers' men's basketball games would double to $1,000 per game. At the recommendation of the college administrators -- including the college athletic director -- the trustees voted not to hold games in the 2006-2007 season at the coliseum. Home games for the upcoming season will be held on the newly dedicated Gene Bess Court in the Bess Activity Center on the Three Rivers campus.

At the same meeting, it was reported to the board that there might be a donor who would assist with the cost of installing new bleacher seating at the center. While no donor emerged, a representative of a regional soft drink bottler mentioned his company would be willing to enter into a business arrangement with the college and, in return, help provide new bleacher seating. No details of this arrangement have been presented to college administrators or the board of trustees. However, the board has asked that any offers for such a project be presented by July 15. The cost of renovating the current bleachers is considerable, and the board is wisely studying all options before making any decision. The board and the administration of Three Rivers pledge to be open and upfront with the community on the status of this possible project and will carefully weight all options, always mindful of the college's needs, the best interests of the students, and our responsibilities to the taxpayers who support us.

The college also decided no longer to offer classes at the center at Bernie. Last year, the city leaders in Bernie were gracious and worked with the college in preparing a center for Three Rivers classes in their community in the newly renovated Bernie Community Center. We appreciate the support. However, due to the proximity of the Three Rivers centers at Malden and Campbell and the Three Rivers classes taught at Dexter High School, it is more efficient to consolidate our efforts. We feel it is the best use of the college's resources to focus on classes taught at our other sites and through the college's extensive ITV network.

We are, indeed, an area blessed with many resources and many opportunities. Three Rivers Community College will continue to be prudent in the use of our resources, and remain committed to being a vital part of our region.

In doing so, Three Rivers will continue to help Southeast Missourians make their dreams a bright reality.

Dr. John Cooper is president of Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

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