High-tech job creation, training gain attention

Thursday, July 1, 2004

The future of area business development is to create more high-tech jobs and local training opportunities for the jobs, said many members of state and federal government and the business community Wednesday during an economic roundtable at the Show Me Center.

"The bottom line is to pull in all the stake holders and brainstorm what the next generation of jobs is for the area and how do we make sure we have the training for those jobs in place," said U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who had conducted four other similar roundtables in other parts of the 8th Congressional District over the past few weeks.

The roundtable was attended by more than 60 people, the majority of whom were representing private businesses in and around Cape Girardeau.

The consensus seemed to be that the future of manufacturing jobs in the area was rooted in a work force trained to work with high-tech procedures and equipment. The answer, Emerson said, was not only in the strengthening of the university, but promotion of technical schools and training programs.

"Let the low-paying jobs go," said Rick Beasley, director of the Missouri Division of Workforce Development. "Let's build on high-tech."

Kevin Cantwell of Big River Telephone and Kathy Swan of JCS/Tel-link both emphasized the need for employees trained to work on ever-evolving communications technology. Cantwell went on to say that building an infrastructure for the transportation of information in the region is vital. Such a network, he said, would help bridge existing gaps to surrounding rural communities.

A large part of the talks centered on the transportation not only of information, but of goods, people, and especially jobs to, from and within Cape Girardeau.

Dennis Roedemeier, executive director of the Southeast Missouri State University Innovation Center, said speed in the movement of people and goods is getting a new emphasis in economic development. It used to be more important to get it right than get it there fast. That's not necessarily the case anymore, Roedemeier said.

Mayor Jay Knudtson told the gathering that Cape Girardeau has all the pieces necessary to attract manufacturing jobs -- including Interstate 55 and the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. The imperative, he said, is to better connect these pieces, making transportation more efficient for existing and prospective industry. He mentioned expansion of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport and construction of an east-west corridor -- the possibility of Interstate 66 passing through -- as possible answers to this problem.

Jeff Brune of the Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority expanded the topic to include public transit. He expressed a desire for government help in better coordinating mass transport of workers and consumers in the county to prevent overlap and more evenly distribute service over the entire area.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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