Business Park: Adding jobs to the local economy

Pepsi MidAmerica full line driver Jamia Wiggins, originally of Cairo, Illinois, and now Cape Girardeau, tends to duties while unloading and taking inventory at the Pepsi MidAmerica depot in the Cape Girardeau Business Park. Pepsi MidAmerica was the first to establish itself at the business park four years ago, moving there because of the area’s growing economy.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

Location, location, location.

That's why Pepsi MidAmerica chose to establish a distribution center in the Cape Girardeau Business Park.

"We couldn't ask for a better location," said Jonathon Briley, area manager with Pepsi MidAmerica, as he recently walked between buildings on the company's 17-acre site in the Business Park.

The distribution facility is one of several that are strategically located throughout a multistate region by Pepsi MidAmerica, which is headquartered in Marion, Illinois. Each distribution facility provides PepsiCo's beverages and food products to retail outlets, schools, businesses and a myriad of other clients.

Establishing a distribution depot at the Cape Girardeau Business Park made sense to Pepsi MidAmerica because of the area's growing economy. "The economics in Cape drove us to this area," Briley said, "and here we have additional capacity for more business growth."

Pepsi MidAmerica was the first business to establish itself at the Cape Girardeau Business Park four years ago, but it will be far from the last, according to Cape Girardeau City Manager Scott Meyer who says many more will soon follow.

A Pepsi truck sits Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, at the Pepsi MidAmerica depot in Cape Girardeau. The company owns a 17-acre site in the Cape Girardeau Business Park.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

"Pepsi was our first piece," Meyer said, explaining how the company wanted to relocate its area distribution facility from Sikeston to the Business Park. Working with the Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET organization, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and others, Meyer said the Pepsi distribution facility was instrumental in developing the Business Park's infrastructure -- streets, utilities, high-speed Internet and so forth.

Once the home of Southeast Missouri State University's demonstration farm, the 247-acre Business Park is located along LaSalle Street on the east side of Interstate 55 at Exit 102. It was purchased from the Southeast Missouri University Foundation in 2012 for $25,718 an acre for a total cost of $6 million.

"At that same time, there was a group of businessmen who purchased property along Nash Road," Meyer said. "They had an opportunity to sell that property and had a windfall from that sale, so they were willing to help purchase the Business Park property."

Those benefactors were members of The Greater Cape Girardeau Benevolent Association. Once known as the Greater Cape Development Corp., they made an initial down payment of $480,000 toward acquisition of the university property.

The balance of the property purchase is being made by the city in annual payment of $460,000 over 12 years, using a portion of the revenue it receives from Century Casino Cape Girardeau.

Initial land sales in the Business Park have provided some return on the city's investment, which Meyer said is being used to continue the property's development. "We're not in the business of trying to make money there," Meyer said. "Instead, we're watching our investment, and we want to make it easier for more businesses to move in all the time. Right now, we have a good part of the infrastructure, in that we can now build around."

The city manager compared the Business Park's beginnings to that of an infant. "I view it as birthing," he said. "As of now, it's been birthed, we have a couple of things built, and now it's just a matter of extending services."

Asked when he thought the Cape Girardeau Business Park would be a "mature" operation, Meyer said, "I think it's mature when you have more than half the acreage in operation and most of the infrastructure in. Then you're talking about a mature park that's generating enough traffic, so there's perhaps an opportunity for people that serve that traffic to expand their services, as well."

Although the Business Park will generate some incremental growth in tax revenue, Meyer said the primary focus is on adding jobs to the local economy.

"Yes, we'll gain some property tax revenue," he said. "We haven't done any kind of tax increment financing or similar incentives for the Business Park, so that's a possibility, but primarily the focus has been on jobs."

Pepsi MidAmerica, for instance, has 60 employees on its payroll at the Business Park and expects to grow that number.

A generation ago, the development might have been referred to as an "industrial park," but in today's economy, there is a growing opportunity for tech-related businesses, research companies and other nontraditional firms to establish a presence in the Business Park. "We don't necessarily see ourselves as a cornucopia for a smokestack-type of industry in the Business Park," Meyer said.

At any given time, Meyer said the city is in contact with a number of businesses that are interested in locating to or expanding in Cape Girardeau. These businesses, he said, would be good fits for the Business Park.

"MAGNET is a partner in marketing the Business Park," Meyer noted. "When they have someone who's interested, they let me know. We work hand-in-hand."

As for the Business Park's best selling point, Meyer said it is undoubtedly its location.

"It has great access to I-55, we're in the center of the country, and when you think of distribution, it's kind of a no-brainer," he said. "Potential partnerships with the university is big, and we also have a great work force. Employers love the fact that people in this area are dedicated, they're hard-working, and they show up to work."

The Business Park's strategic location also offers convenient access to numerous motor freight carriers and trucking terminals, the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority and air transportation services available at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport a few miles to the south.