Last month a $10 million development for a dental and vision cooperative in downtown Cape Girardeau was announced. The center, called Watch Me Smile and developed by Weaver Dickerson, was to bring 135 jobs to Cape Girardeau. City and state leaders were excited about the development, and the state pledged its support announcing $2.05 million in state economic development incentives for the medical center. However, plans for the development took a different turn over the past few weeks.
Several days after the announcement, information surfaced about the company's CEO, Weaver Dickerson. Dickerson pleaded guilty in 2007 to a felony for passing bad checks. He received a suspended imposition of sentence and was ordered to five years of unsupervised probation.
Shortly after the news of Dickerson's past was revealed, the Missouri Department of Economic Development withdrew its authorization for state aid.
Certainly more due diligence should have been carried out by local and state officials before the governor made his announcement in Cape Girardeau. In this electronic age where so much information is readily available with just a flew clicks of the mouse -- including background checks -- it's disappointing this situation transpired to this point.
On a more positive note, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and Magnet have added criminal background checks to their list of requirements for developers seeking state incentives. Key state leaders are also working to bring more oversight to the process of awarding state incentives to prospective developers.
These are positive steps to assure a similar situation doesn't happen in the future.