Workforce Investment Board highlighted at Sikeston Chamber of Commerce gathering

Saturday, May 24, 2008

SIKESTON, Mo. -- When it comes to an area's economy, it's not all about luring in new business, but taking care of what's there and helping it expand.

That's the message Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce members heard from Mike Seabaugh with Business Retention and Expansion, the featured speaker at Thursday's monthly luncheon.

"It is very important that we support the existing businesses we have and help them sustain and grow," Seabaugh said.

He spoke on behalf of the Workforce Investment Board. The local board covers a 13-county area in Southeast Missouri.

"The purpose is to locally analyze the concentration of the workforce and provide opportunities to promote and improve that work force," Seabaugh said.

The WIB is the managing entity for the Missouri Career Center in Sikeston. Seabaugh said the Center has recently changed its point of view over who its primary customers are.

"The WIB is beginning to transition into a business service provider," he said. "We consider employers as our primary customers and the workers are a product of that."

WIB staffers visit with employers around the area. In those visits, they learn business needs and how to make them healthier and create more jobs, Seabaugh said.

As another tool to focus on a community's need, the WIB recommends areas complete a business survey, then enters it into a database.

Through funding from AmerenUE, "the only cost to the community is the effort to gather this information and put it in the database," he said. All that information will be analyzed, with results provided to the chamber.

Missy Marshall, Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, pointed out that nearby, Dexter and Jackson have participated in the survey. "We are interested in doing it, so we will be working on it for the next several months," she said. "The programs they have are very good and very expensive, and we couldn't afford to do it on our own."

Also at the luncheon, Shad Old, event chairman for the Trike Riders International Rally, spoke to members about the July 23 to 26 event.

About 1,000 bikers are expected to attend, according to the latest figures. Also, all of the hotel reservation block rooms are filled, and campgrounds are filling up, too, Old said.

The Clinton Building will serve as headquarters for the event, and a vendor fair will be set up there, too. There will also be a three-day scavenger hunt for those visiting.

Old highlighted some of the events scheduled while the group is in town. The public is invited to several. For a complete schedule, visit the Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site, www.visitsikeston-miner.com.

"We want to make sure they get out and visit the merchants," Old said. "Because boy, they spend a lot of money."

He noted the event is expected to bring in a lot of tourism dollars -- as much as a quarter-million dollars in sales tax revenue.

The group is a "well-mannered, Christian riding group," Old said. "We're not going to have to worry about cleaning up the town after they leave."

Old noted that, due to the group's impression of their relationship with the Sikeston-Miner CVB, they have already signed on to host the rally here again in 2009.

"We really need to show them some good old Sikeston-Miner hospitality," Old said. "This could be a cash cow for the community and a huge boom."

He encouraged businesses to get involved by posting welcome signs, or even submitting coupons to be placed in the registration bag each triker will receive.

Another speaker was Gary Howard of the Sikeston Elk's Club, who talked about the 2008 Fourth of July fireworks show.

"Again this year, we are asking the community for your help and support," he said.

Howard also said that, after 15 years as the Elk's activity director, he is stepping down from the position. He thanked all the businesses and individuals for their support through the years.

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