Mike Marshall reflects on 2012 in the Delta region, and what 2013 may bring

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Mike Marshall of Sikeston, Mo., serves as alternate federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority. (ADAM VOGLER)

Born and raised in Sikeston, Mo., Mike Marshall has stayed true to his hometown in his adult life as well. He was mayor of Sikeston from 2003 to 2009, is a former president of the Sikeston Jaycees and Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce and was named 2009 Citizen of the Year by the Sikeston chamber. Marshall is a former president of First State Bank and Trust Inc., served on the board of commissioners of the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority for 13 years and also has a background in farm management. In 2010, he was appointed alternate federal co-chair for the Delta Regional Authority. In a nutshell, Marshall works with the DRA to "get out of our silos and board rooms and into working groups in which we deliver the tangible skills and resources to expand our small-business community," he explains. Here's a "year in review" from Marshall's perspective:

Business Today: How would you summarize the region's economic scene in 2012? What about in Southeast Missouri? What facets are growing, and which are struggling?

Mike Marshall: After the recession, the economic scene in 2012 has slowly improved. Even though we experienced a severe drought, the Southeast Missouri region is fortunate to be some of the most productive farmland in the world, and we have an abundance of groundwater. We have top-notch farmers who were able to benefit from the higher prices for commodities, which was a boost to our local economy.

BT: What are the biggest needs in the Delta region and in Southeast Missouri?

MM: The biggest needs affecting Southeast Missouri and the Delta region are a continued emphasis on supporting our small businesses and entrepreneurs. To support that claim, DRA released a report last month that adds further proof to what many of us have been saying for awhile now: Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the past, present and future of the Delta economy. Since 1992, locally owned establishments with nine or fewer employees have created more than 90 percent of the net new jobs. In human terms, it means that the small mom and pop shops on our Main Streets and in our rural communities are the economic engines of our region -- in good times and bad.

BT: How is the Delta Regional Authority working together to identify and address those needs?

MM: The Delta Regional Authority is working throughout Southeast Missouri and across the Delta to address those needs by investing in expanding the skills, resources and overall support environment for our entrepreneurs and small businesses; also by launching new training and workshops with economic innovations such as Operation Jumpstart and leaders like Dr. James Stapleton at Southeast Missouri State University. I'm proud of our efforts to get out of our silos and board rooms and into working groups in which we deliver the tangible skills and resources to expand our small-business community.

BT: What do you think was the biggest economic development story this year?

MM: The biggest economic development story has to be the drought and the effects it had not only on our agriculture economy, but also the effects it had on our great natural wonder: the Mississippi River. The river defines our region and our history. The Delta region runs from south of St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico on both sides of the river and encompasses 252 counties and parishes in eight states. The entire U.S. Inland waterway system carries 60 percent of all U.S., grains, 20 percent of U.S. coal and 40 percent of all U.S. petroleum products bound for export. I see the opportunity that the river system provides to our ability to ship our agriculture products and other exports, making the Delta a strategic location.

BT: Where do you think the regional economy is headed in 2013? What about the next five to 10 years?

MM: I am very positive the economy is headed up, and I feel that we are entering a new growth period for the next several years, with Washington hopefully getting our deficit issues under control and with the country nearing energy independence, which also will help our balance of trade. Manufacturing is coming back and our entrepreneur spirit is strong. Our region will benefit for all those reasons.

BT: What is the best thing about your job?

MM: I guess the best thing about my job is meeting so many interesting people throughout the Delta. I have had the opportunity to form many friendships with people all over. So many people have a love for the Delta and see all the possibilities we have. I love the rich history and charm of the Delta region.

BT: What keeps you motivated?

MM: I like seeing innovation and growth. I grew up here in the Bootheel and marvel at how our region adapts to the changing world around us.

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