By Melissa Miller
Isle of Capri Corp. CEO James B. Perry shared his vision for Cape Girardeau's future as local business leaders celebrated a year of economic development efforts Friday during Cape Area Magnet's annual luncheon.
(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
"What made this project successful is our shared vision. That makes Cape Girardeau a place where we want to do business," Perry said.
Perry oversees Isle's 15 casino properties in six states. He previously worked as an executive with Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. and Argosy Gaming Co.
"Customers come to a riverboat for about three hours. Our goal is to make their visit to downtown Cape a six-hour visit," he said.
Isle's $125 million casino development plan, under review by city officials, includes a second phase to construct a hotel in the future.
"The key to building a hotel is transforming a three-hour experience into a six-hour experience because once we do, it becomes a place to come for a couple of days," Perry said. "We will start to build an entertainment district down there that will be the envy from St. Louis to Memphis and from Branson to wherever it is in the east. ... I guess it's Louisville."
Perry complimented Mayor Harry Rediger for understanding to Isle's vision for its casino here.
"I have built these projects now for 30 years," Perry said. "This project happened because he protected your interests and understood what we needed to get this project done."
Whether in New Jersey, Nevada or Missouri, Perry said, five things are key to the success of a casino facility -- cleanliness; great products, whether it's games or food; friendly employees; parking; and safety.
"While those are what make our casino successful they are also what is going to make downtown Cape successful," Perry said.
It's important that downtown Cape Girardeau be clean, that there are products for sale there that people want, that the employees are friendly, there is adequate parking and that people feel safe there, he said.
"As this happens, those businesses will continue to blossom and we'll continue to create that six-hour experience in Cape," he said
The shared vision for downtown revitalization that Isle and the city have will also help attract more retirees to Cape Girareau, Perry said.
"Most of our customers are over 45, and the majority of them are retired with annual incomes over $75,000 a year. Those are the kind of people that can be attracted to Cape who will spend money not only in our casino but throughout the community," Perry said.
Along with bringing the largest capital investment by a private company in the city's history, Isle of Capri's new casino is expected to create 450 jobs.
"It's been very interesting year with a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but overall more ups," said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Area Magnet.
While the national economy is still shaky, Robinson said he thinks 2011 will be a good year locally.
"We are very close to another announcement on a major manufacturer. We are seeing a solid increase in retail activity," he said.
Real estate agents from St. Louis and outside the region are starting to look again for opportunities and are considering Cape Girardeau.
"Relationships are being built with these folks who drive the early development of these sites," Robinson said.
In addition to working with Isle of Capri, Magnet assisted with a $4.6 million expansion at Spartech creating 12 new jobs; and with Renewable Resources a new business to recycle roofing, dry wall and other products that will help both the economy and environment, Robinson said.
Missouri Economic Development director David Kerr also spoke during the luncheon, addressing the need for a statewide strategic plan for economic development.
Kerr highlighted seven industries that would help drive Missouri's economy forward: advanced manufacturing, energy solutions, biosciences, health sciences, information technology, financial and professional services, and transportation logistics.
1267 N. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO