Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


Cape Chamber dinner marked by special touches

There were several special touches to the Cape Chamber's Annual Dinner on Friday night. Dan Drury, president of MidAmerica Hotels, provided substance to an evening of thanks and recognitions by highlighting the predicted economic impact of the city's soon-to-be-under-construction sports complex near Center Junction, where his company provided a plan and donated land, among other things. The special touch wasn't the economic case, which is convincing, but rather, the closing of his remarks. Saying he remembers well the many times he served customers directly throughout his career, Drury encouraged attendees to be sure to recognize their table servers and bartenders. It was the kind of remark that has typified the Drury family over the years.

Dan Drury also provoked the audience at the beginning of his comments, calling hotel rooms "one of the most perishable" commodities.

"If you don't rent it tonightÂ…you never get the chance to rent that tonight again," he said.

The point was context to the negative economic impact on the community, gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants and retail spaces (and thus to local employment and the tax base) when a major sports tournament is cancelled because of bad weather. Soon, Cape Girardeau will not only have a sports tournament draw for winter months, but the new facility will serve as fallback for other outdoor events during the year.

Drury gave tribute to the teamwork that made the project possible. And the standing ovation from the crowd recognized his own contributions.

Another special touch was Drury following up earlier remarks by past chamber chairman and evening's emcee Jay Knudtson, who had talked about moving to the community, and what a privilege it's been for him to serve. Drury thanked Knudtson and all those who have moved to the area with a passion to make it a better place. I can relate to those comments. For some of us who grew up here, we were born in love with our home. Others have brought their talents here and set roots, fallen in love in their own ways, and that is doubly appreciated.

Another special touch was the recognition of Ambassador of the Year, which included a moving tribute by Chamber Member Development Specialist Kim Voelker. Voelker recognized the chamber's good friend and tireless volunteer, Paula Myers, who had earned enough points for the award (for the sixth time) before she tragically died late last year. There were few dry eyes in the Show Me Center as Myers' sister strode to the stage to accept the award.

The big winners of the night were Dennis Vollink of Drury Southwest, who received the prestigious Rush H. Limbaugh Award, and Bill and Susan Cole of Realty Executives, which was named Small Business of the Year. Each was eloquent in their remarks, and it was clear they were touched by the recognition. Vollink's comments repeated the theme of great teamwork, as well as the "unbelievable" opportunity and joy it was for him to work with Drury Southwest all around the country. Few men have had the kind of quiet, professional impact as Vollink on this community.

The evening is always one of my favorites of the year. So many turn out to celebrate the chamber and the people who make a difference. Among them, Congressman Jason Smith, who rolled in after a long day on the road and with a trip to Poplar Bluff to follow after the ceremonies. And Tim Young of Patrick Furniture, who took the stage after being recognized for his company's 50 years of chamber membership, and who talked about the importance of service.

At 9 pm, almost on the dot, Bob Neff, the current chairman of the board, gave appropriate tribute to the previous chairman -- "I can not overstate the wonderful job that Jay Knudtson has done" -- and drew the meeting to a close, precisely on schedule, just like chamber president John Mehner likes to keep things. For the chamber staff, it was another accomplishment in a series of wins for them in helping Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area prosper.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications. He is also the chairman-elect of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce.