JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A little over a year after closing its regional offices, the state Department of Economic Development said Friday it is bringing back the concept -- but with workers based at its central office.
State budget troubles led the department to close seven regional offices last June -- in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Dexter, Trenton, Moberly and Houston -- to save an estimated $1 million in personnel costs.
On Friday, the department announced six new regional development teams as part of a "new commitment to provide services that are tailored to meet the needs of each region." Unlike before, the regions will be served by people working in Jefferson City, not locally.
"Accepting the reality of the fact that our department is shrinking due to this tight budget, it certainly reflects the fact that we have to do more with less," said department spokesman Jim Grebing. "It's a way of working smarter and, we think, more efficiently and effectively."
The department's general revenue funding this year is almost $23 million less than it was three years ago. The funding cuts have led to a reorganization at the Department of Economic Development and a reduction in state services available to businesses.
For example, people starting a new business previously could call the department with questions about the process. But those calls now will be forwarded to other organizations with expertise on the subject.
"While that service is very important, we can no longer afford to operate a toll-free phone line and dedicate staff to essentially offer advice," said department director Joe Driskill.
Grebing said the new regional economic development teams won't cost the department any additional money. All the employees also will perform other duties at the main office.
The recent reorganization at the department merged its business development division with its business expansion and attraction division to create a Division of Business Services.
Whereas three years ago the two divisions had combined general revenue budgets of $16.8 million and 67 employees, the new unified division has a $7.3 million budget and 39 employees. Phil Tate, who had been director of business expansion and attraction, is serving as interim director of the new division.
The displaced director of the business development division, Dennis Roedemeier, has been hired by Southeast Missouri State University. He will serve as executive director of the school's new innovation center, which will encourage economic development in the region.
On the Net:
Economic Development Department: http://www.missouridevelopment.org