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Chamber, city, county officials delve deep into economic development

Chamber, city, county officials delve deep into economic development

February 28th, 2017 by Sam Richardson in Local News

The 14 individuals elected to lead Jefferson City and Cole County government and the hierarchy of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce gathered at City Hall Monday night in what was billed as the first-ever work session dedicated to the Chamber's annual economic development report.

In years past, Chamber President and CEO Randy Allen said, the business organization's hefty report was on a Council agenda. This year, all three Cole County Commissioners, all 10 members of the City Council and Mayor Carrie Tergin, and the professional and volunteer leadership team of the Chamber, consumed the data over two hours in focused discussion.

Allen and his aides — Missy Bonnot, the director of economic development, and Shaun Sappenfield, the manager of existing business — used words and pictures to escort the participants through 66 Power Point slides and no less than 14 major discussion topics.

The presentation was a thorough trip through the Jefferson City-Cole County business scene in 2016, a well-guided road map of what might happen on the 2017 trip and a peek or two at what's over the horizon. The report on the Chamber's fiscal status was just a small part of the evening's business.

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The Chamber's 2016 budget of $952,704 was divided by 61 percent spent on economic development and 39 percent on Chamber operations, the government officials were told. On the revenue side of the budget, Jefferson City's share was $185,000, Cole County contributed $150,000; $360,745 was membership investment income and $247,958 was generated by Chamber events and miscellaneous income.

None of the elected officials waffled their support of the Chamber and the use of tax dollars for economic development or the operations of the Chamber.

Among the many highlights of the report was the labor study, which indicated the total population of what was termed the Jefferson City labor basin is 302,503, with a civilian labor force of 151,824 and an available labor pool of 96,618 individuals. Allen said prospective employers almost always are surprised to learn Jefferson City proper is only 43,000 residents.

"Of the non-working members of the available labor pool," the study said, "an estimated 3,818 (4.08 percent) are currently looking for work and 17,620, or 18.2 percent, are interested in working for the right opportunities. Of the working members of the available labor pool, 18,795, or 19.5 percent, are currently looking for work, while 56,385, or 58.4 percent, are interested in a different job given the right opportunities."

Seventy-three percent in the labor pool have some college, 97 percent have at least a high school diploma. The average age of the labor pool is about 45 years, and women comprise 49.5 percent.

A third of those in the labor pool will commute up to 45 minutes one-way for their job and 80 percent will commute up to 30 minutes.

Thirteen percent of the local labor pool want a new job at $10 an hour, 45 percent want a new job at $15 an hour and 61 percent are willing to change jobs for $20 an hour.

Four employers were cited for 2016 expansions: Modern Litho, Scholastic, Porite and Modine, collectively investing $16,540,000, creating 270 jobs with a payroll of $6,464,800. Modern Litho's expansion project represented a total investment of $8.8 million with 50 new jobs. Allen said about 80 percent of all new economic growth is from existing employers — like these four.

In response to a question from Councilman Larry Henry, the Chamber trio delivered a highly detailed analysis of an economic development project which did not materialize for Jefferson City. Known as Project Kayden, the Chamber team began working on the pet care and pet treats manufacturer from Korea on Feb. 24, 2016.

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"The product is rice and oat flour based with a tad of fish oil and poultry flavor added for palatability," the Chamber team said. The firm wanted a 50,000-100,000 square foot manufacturing and warehousing facility. Twenty-five jobs were promised in the first year, with 40 within five years. The company estimated it would invest $2 million-$5 million for machinery and equipment.

The Koreans came to Jefferson City last March 24, the CEO came Sept. 16 and he returned Dec. 7. The Chamber knew it was competing against St. Joseph and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Jonesboro won the competition.

Bonnot said it was unclear why the employer chose Jonesboro, although that community had a higher unemployment rate, a lower average wage and an existing culture of Korean employers. The decision could have revolved around the translator Jonesboro hired, Bonnot said.

A more positive project, which, if it comes to fruition, would result in a bricks and mortar facility in Jefferson City is the Missouri Cyber Institute (MoCI). Originating with a task force impaneled by former Gov. Jay Nixon, the MoCI action plan was submitted to the Missouri Office of Cyber Security in January 2017.

"The task force was comprised of state/county/local governments, law enforcement, higher education and private industry," Allen said. "Their work focused on strengthening the state's cyber program in five different areas: information sharing, training and exercises, workforce development, hardening critical infrastructure and incident response."

He said the Chamber would do all it could to land the project, which would spawn a large base of high tech jobs resident in Jefferson City for many years to come. The MoCI is a collaboration of many entities, including the Missouri National Guard, Lincoln University and the State Technical College of Missouri.

Mayor Tergin urged Allen and his colleagues to continue to work on retail development, sports tourism and development of the Missouri Special Olympics.