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Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce President Bob Hendrix will hang up his hat in late 1993. For the past two decades, he has served Cape Girardeau well in the pursuit of economic stability. He announced his retirement at last week's First Friday Coffee.

His long-standing tenure bucks the odds. His 20-year record is four times the average stay of a chamber director. But those who know him well realize Bob Hendrix is no ordinary chamber director.

Hendrix has been one of Cape Girardeau's most faithful boosters - both here and abroad. Backed by dedicated businessmen and women - they have worked as a team to build a solid employment base in Cape Girardeau.

With 1,500 members, the Cape chamber is one of the largest and most active in the state, and perhaps nation, for a community of this size. And that doesn't happen by accident. It takes planning and execution. It takes dedication and time. It takes leadership.

By any standard, directing the chamber hasn't always been an easy job. Hours are long and negotiations are arduous. Expectations often surpass the realities of a small staff. But the victory is sweet when an industry is wooed to Cape Girardeau or Southeast Missouri. The chamber has also been active, and successful, in promoting tourism through its affiliation with the visitors and convention bureau.

There have been disappointments as well. Industries have chosen other towns that offered lucrative deals, or decided not to relocate at all. A chamber economic development position was dissolved due to lack of dollars and results. But this setback hasn't stalled Hendrix or the chamber in its quest for jobs. The chamber has continued the work on its own, and in conjunction with other agencies. It has been an active partner in the formation of the Cape Girardeau Area Industrial Recruitment Association.

The job as chamber president has been one of negotiator, cheerleader, creator, advocate - and don't forget - fundraiser. The chamber operates on monies donated by the businesses who care enough about the community to give.

Hendrix came to Cape Girardeau from Springfield, where he had served four years on the chamber staff as its director of legislative affairs. He succeeded Allen Robinson, who had served 14 years on the job here before his sudden death. No doubt Hendrix will assist the chamber in finding a top-notch replacement to lead the city into the next century.

He has seen many changes over the years some good, some not so good. The professionalism of businesses has increased greatly, but so has the bureaucratic red tape. Hendrix has learned you keep up with the times and trends, or get left behind.

Although Hendrix has announced his intentions to retire, he doesn't plan to rest on his laurels. The next year will be a busy one pursuing jobs and exploring the possibility of larger facilities. Bob Hendrix will leave the job as he came with class. And Cape Girardeau will be a better place for his years at the helm of our chamber of commerce.