The case for regional economic development

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I have long been an advocate of regional economic development. I believe that when it comes to economic development, the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts.

We, in Southeast Missouri, have several inherent roadblocks when we compete with other states for opportunities in economic development. Free land, large extra incentives, right to work and other factors create fierce competition for that job-producing company looking to expand its organization.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development does have a number of incentive programs in its "toolbox" to aid local entities in their recruitment efforts. We have used these incentives many times in the past to enhance economic growth in Cape Girardeau and Cape Girardeau County.

We have begun to form and nurture a more regional approach to economic development. We have formed an "Interstate-55 Corridor Group" to gain more open communication and gain some synergies as we continue to recruit businesses to our area. This group includes the counties of Perry, Cape Girardeau, Scott and the cities of Sikeston, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Scott City, Jackson and Perryville, Mo.

I have had numerous conversations with Mayor Jerry Pullen in Sikeston, Mayor Deb Gahan in Perryville and have support from Mayor Barbara Lohr of Jackson, Mayor Tim Porch of Scott City, and presiding commissioners Clint Tracy and Jamie Burger from Cape Girardeau and Scott counties. I give Steve McPheeters from Sikeston much credit in pursuing this important effort.

We had our first group meeting last month hosted by the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce. I felt enthusiasm among the group on the potential to promote our area as a region and to share successes and challenges. We committed to meeting once each quarter in the future.

We do not anticipate consolidating any individual city's efforts to bring business to their community. Each city and county will maintain its autonomy. Cape Girardeau uses the joint venture of Magnet to promote economic development. Magnet is funded by Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau County, Jackson and Scott City. Sikeston and Perryville also have individual economic development programs.

I feel that there is common good and synergies within this I-55 corridor that has the potential of benefiting each individual city and the entire group as a whole. For example, we may be able to market the entire area at a cost savings or widen the reach within the original budget. I submit to all that when one of our communities succeed in a project, it benefits the entire region.

I am looking forward to a very positive year in business and industrial development in our area as we move into 2013.

Harry E. Rediger is the mayor of Cape Girardeau.

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