Economy of Southeast Missouri cities buoyed by ability to land new jobs

Monday, December 31, 2007

Every community wants a big box store, a major manufacturer, a shopping mall, a popular restaurant chain -- something to bring people into the community and provide jobs for its residents.

Communities in Southeast Missouri are proud not only of the major businesses located there, but are equally proud of the diversity of local and national businesses that keep them strong.

Being located on a major interstate has helped Sikeston bring in Ace Systems, an Australian-based construction parts manufacturer that will employ 70 people when it reaches full capacity, said Missy Marshall, director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Because of where we are located we can ship all over the place," Marshall said. "And because we're a city that is business friendly that helped secure them in this location. We're very excited about that."

In neighboring Miner, Drury Hotels has come full circle, Marshall said. Drury built its first hotel in Miner, she said, and now the company is replacing that first hotel with a new five-story, 64-room Comfort Inn using a new model Drury just developed. Along with the new hotel, she said, will be a Steak 'n Shake restaurant.

While Sikeston has big draws already -- Ruby Tuesday, McDonald's, Burger King, an outlet mall -- Marshall said the community appreciates local landmarks such as Lambert's, known nationally for throwing rolls at its diners. Sikeston also considers its downtown revitalization efforts among its assets as well.

"We see some businesses relocate into our downtown," Marshall said. "That's very good news. We have had one traditional retail business and a photography studio has located downtown. We are seeing increased interest in our downtown."

Dexter is another community not putting all its eggs in one basket.

Chamber director Janet Coleman says Dexter is proud of its major employers, Tyson Foods and U.S. Poly among them -- that employ hundreds of people, it also works to develop locally-owned smaller businesses.

"Diversity in our job opportunities is one of the major things that help maintain good steady growth.

That makes it possible, she said, for McDonald's to coexist with the Hickory Log for the good of Dexter.

Bringing in jobs is a major coup for any community, and for Cape Girardeau the NARS call center is a big hit with all the jobs it created, and with the company's recycling a large unused building into a productive one again, said chamber director John Mehner.

"We've had very good business growth as far as commercial and retail," Mehner said.

Not only does Cape have new business, but its current industries are growing.

"I think our strengths are not solely dependent on any one area," Mehner said. "We have continued development of our hospitals and educational systems as well."

Jackson also enjoys expansion of existing industry, such as ARI-Jackson, which has recently bought some land and plans to expand there, said Mary Beth Williams, director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps the biggest hit for this year, she said, is the construction of the I-55 interchange.

"That has been on everybody's radar, she said.

A new shopping complex has meant a boon for Perryville, said chamber director Melissa Hemmann.

"A lot of businesses are opening up out there," she said. "We have Sonic, O'Reilly's, Immediate Health Care is getting ready to open. Hoeckele's bakery is moving out there and Walgreens is coming. We're excited about those. We are booming."

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