Talking shop with Tim Arbeiter, vice president of community development with the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce

Monday, March 7, 2011
Tim Arbeiter, vice president of community development of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, is pleased with the Fountain Street extension. (Fred Lynch)

Tim Arbeiter recently received the Charles L. Hutson Visionary Award from Old Town Cape Inc., in recognition of his commitment to revitalize downtown Cape Girardeau. He previously served as the organization's director and now works as vice president of community development with the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce.

Question: How has your career evolved to get you to where you are now in your role with the chamber?

Answer: I would categorize my career as a series of unforeseen opportunities. In fall of 2004 I was working at Southeast Missouri State University, and I picked up the Southeast Missourian to read one Saturday night, which I never do on a Saturday night, and I noticed an ad in the paper for the Old Town Cape executive director position. I read it three or four times, put it down and walked away. The position kept popping back into my head, and I thought it would be a great job where I could help my community and downtown grow. That same kind of opportunity came to me in 2006 when I joined the Chamber of Commerce staff to work on community development for the area. It is truly a passion of mine to help our area continue its growth.

Q: What projects have you been involved with that you enjoyed working on the most.

A: I'll give you two. First, the Fountain Street Corridor was by far one of the most challenging, and was one of my earliest projects in my development career. In order for the street to be enhanced, with lighting, pavers and landscaping, we had to close a funding gap. As a team we had to identify possible funding sources, and after a lot of paperwork and applications we achieved our goal and the street is now open.

Second, one of the committees I oversee at the chamber is our Health and Human Services Committee. They primarily sponsor Shape Up Cape, but this past year our committee wanted to pursue the task of assisting chamber members in establishing a wellness program at their place of business. We call it "WorkWell" and we were able to launch the first round of trainings this past fall and had a great response. The chamber members who participated in the training are each working at their own pace to establish wellness programs. This initiative has the ability to impact our area's work force substantially, and we hope it continues to grow.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job? What's the most rewarding?

A: The most challenging part of my job is having enough time to do everything I want to do. We are very blessed in our area to have some kind of economic/redevelopment activity occurring on weekly basis. I can be working on several projects on any given day and -- bam! -- a new project springs up and must have everyone's full attention right away. In the same vein, this is also the most rewarding part of my job. Every week there something new to learn, there is research to be done, and there is a significant amount of creative thinking and problem solving that has to occur in order for development to happen.

Q: What is something most people don't know about the Chamber?

A: Our Chamber of Commerce has been around for almost 95 years. We were officially formed as a chamber in 1917, but prior to that in 1888 the Cape Girardeau Commercial Club existed, the chamber's predecessor. We have a very long history of leading and advocating for the business community, and will continue to do so for many years in the future.

Q: Describe your experiences helping to guide the city's DREAM Initiative and Downtown Strategic Planning process.

A: Overall, the experience was rewarding, challenging, and sometimes downright frustrating because it wasn't moving as fast as I wanted it to go. However, the end product was well worth the wait. The plan itself has allowed many people to visually see on paper where our community is headed in downtown development, which leads to them envisioning how they can be a part of the process. The other essential piece was the teamwork among all of the partners including the State of Missouri, Old Town Cape, The City of Cape Girardeau, Southeast Missouri State University, and the urban planner. I learned a lot from my colleagues through that process and learned how when we work as a team we can achieve big things.

Q: You recently received the Charles L. Hutson Visionary Award from Old Town Cape. Describe your vision for the future of downtown.

A: My vision for downtown is the community's vision for downtown as laid out in the Downtown Strategic Plan. There were many stakeholders including downtown businesses, residents, and the community as a whole who spent a great deal of time and energy sharing their thoughts about downtown's future. My task now is to work hard with the other partners to achieve the community's vision.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

A: I enjoy spending time with my two daughters, we have a lot of fun and they definitely keep me busy. I also enjoy exercising on a regular basis, there's just something about having an hour to myself when I can "check-out" from the world around me, while at the same time improving myself physically.

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