$10 million vision, dental care facility planned for Cape Girardeau

Thursday, December 9, 2010
This rendering of the planned Watch Me Smile facility shows the view from Fountain Street. (submitted image)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about the nature of the incentives has been corrected.

A $10 million downtown medical center development that will bring 135 jobs to Cape Girardeau gave city leaders reason to smile Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Nixon joined Watch Me Smile dental and vision cooperative developer W. Weaver Dickerson at the former First Federal Bank building to announce the project and $2.05 million in state economic development incentives.

The project will encompass three properties totaling 90,000 square feet. The H&H Building at 400 Broadway, the Marquette Center at 221 N. Fountain St., and the First Federal building at 325 Broadway will be renovated to create facilities for the Watch Me Smile dental and vision cooperative, office and retail spaces.

"Cape is a community that doesn't know its own potential, and we're trying to be part of that potential," said Dickerson, CEO of Hometown Innovation Team in Cape Girardeau.

His company is receiving $1.3 million in Missouri Quality Jobs funding and a $750,000 loan through the community development block grant program, Nixon said.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced over $2 million in state economic development incentives at a Wednesday morning news conference to assist the creation of a new vision and dental care cooperative in downtown Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The clinic will open next summer, employing 135 people with an average salary of $56,000 per year, Dickerson said.

It is the only health care cooperative of its kind, said Dickerson, a native of Paducah, Ky. He has a background in agribusiness and insurance brokerage.

"The clinic will provide affordable access to top-quality dental and vision care to its members without the limitations and costs associated with traditional insurance," Dickerson said.

People who join the cooperative become part owners and pay dues to get basic services such as checkups, cleanings and comprehensive exams.

More information about the Watch Me Smile cooperative will be announced by Dickerson on Dec. 17.

"Health care cooperatives like Hometown Innovation Teams are the wave of the future in health care and may provide us with the best solutions to health care cost issues," Nixon said. "It is the kind of innovative entrepreneurship that is crucial to the success of Missouri's economy."

City leaders have been working with Dickerson on the project for the past two years, said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Area Magnet.

Dickerson is also seeking economic development assistance from the city in the form of real estate tax abatements. A public hearing on his request will take place early next year.

Wednesday's development is the second major announcement in a week to promise to create new jobs in downtown Cape Girardeau. Last week, the Missouri Gaming Commission approved Isle of Capri's casino plans for downtown Cape Girardeau, which promises 450 new jobs.

"When you are trying to reinvigorate any area. You need residents and you need employees. This is an opportunity for interjection of both," said Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce CEO John Mehner.

The project takes historic downtown buildings that have limited uses and makes them relevant to 2011 and beyond, said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape.

"These jobs, I think, are a really good fit for downtown. I think there are some people who will want to live downtown and other employees will be new consumers to downtown and then the project itself will bring in additional people beyond the employees who can be downtown consumers," Mills said. "It is our goal with every project that it builds a momentum and domino effect to bring more interest to downtown. We've already seen that."

For more information on the project, visit www.watchmesmile.com.

mmiler@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

400 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

221 N. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO

325 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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