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Cape Girardeau County presiding commissioner points to growth of industry as highlight of his commission tenure
When Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones took office in 1994, Cape Girardeau County's assessed valuation was a little more than $500 million, and as he leaves office it is more than $1 billion. Jones considers the county's growth in the past 16 years the greatest accomplishment of his tenure.
"In my opinion, by far the most important thing that we've been able to achieve is our record in industrial recruitment and industrial development, also business development for the county," he said. "We worked really hard in that aspect of government and we got the Bounty towel and Charmin tissue plant located in Cape County. That was a major achievement."
He views the expansion of Procter & Gamble's existing Cape Girardeau County facility as one example of the county working with businesses to provide good, long-lasting jobs. He said the county has worked with companies like Procter & Gamble, Nordenia, BioKyowa and Schafer Electric to offer tax incentives and other programs to encourage growth and expansion.
Jones said the growth in health care is another highlight of his time in office.
"In health care we've done things along that line to enable them to grow and develop through our industrial development authority," he said. "Now the health care field is our major employer."
With industry, business and health care thriving, Jones said, the area has become a magnet for consumers in surrounding areas, and that adds to the county's revenue.
"We're such a regional hub for health care, education, shopping, personal services. On any one given day, Monday through Friday, there's 100,000 people in Cape Girardeau," he said. "A population of 35,000 people becomes a population of 100,000 during the weekdays. They're going to spend a little money. They don't have to spend a lot, but a little bit here and there: gas tax, sales tax. It all adds up."
While Jones said the county's economic growth and development were his high points, his relationship with District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell was a low point.
"There isn't any doubt about that. Anytime you have conflict, it's harder than hell to get anything done because all you're doing is fighting," he said. "You never, never achieve anything by disagreeing all the time. It didn't make any difference what I did, it's not going to suit him. It's very unproductive."
He said with all the options companies have when looking to relocate or expand, the commission's bickering did not help the county's reputation.
Clint Tracy will take office Jan. 1, and Jones said he has been working hard to provide a smooth transition. He has prepared position papers on all the commission's business and responsibilities. He said he will never offer unsolicited advice and won't interfere.
"I'll never second guess anything you do. I'll never do that," he said. "January 1, he's the presiding commissioner, not me. It's better to be a has-been than a never-was. I'll enjoy being a has-been."
1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO