The Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce could have a $150,000 hole in its budget by 2020 after Cole County hired a new economic development consultant this fall, chamber CEO Randy Allen said Friday.
Allen outlined the chamber’s top economic development goals for 2019 to about two dozen chamber members Friday. After the presentation, he said the chamber’s 2019 goals will not be affected by the decision, but chamber operations could be impacted significantly by Cole County’s decision by 2020.
“It will impact it substantially,” Allen said. “We’ll spend this entire year working on that.”
In September, Cole County selected Davenport, Iowa-based Victory Enterprises and Strategic Capital Consulting as its economic development partner, ending a relationship of more than 20 years with the chamber.
The chamber will use reserve funds to fill the gap in 2019, but Allen acknowledged cuts may need to be made to chamber programs if the chamber cannot find the money to fill the hole.
“We’re going to look at all of our resources and how we allocate resources,” Allen said. “It will eventually impact it a lot.”
Still, the chamber is pressing ahead with its involvement in three long-term projects Allen said he hopes will improve the community.
The most important project the chamber will work on in 2019 continues to be its work on behalf of the Heartland Port Authority, Allen said.
The chamber began working on the port project about three years ago. A chamber-commissioned feasibility study last year concluded 115,200 tons of goods could flow through the port per year by its 25th year in operation.
The Missouri Department of Transportation approved the creation of the Heartland Port Authority in September. In November, the port authority’s board of commissioners agreed to a $25,000 professional services contract with the chamber.
At its January meeting Tuesday, the board of commissioners agreed to apply for a $200,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture that could help determine what businesses may use the port.
Allen said the port authority also may apply for federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Grants. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced in December it would make $855 million to $902.5 million available to build infrastructure projects around the country in 2019.
About 90 percent of INFRA funds go to large projects that receive grants of at least $25 million, according to the U.S. DOT. At least 10 percent of funds go to small projects that receive at least $5 million.
Preparation of the INFRA grant is in its earliest stages, and the port authority does not know if it wants to apply for a large or small grant, he said.
“The problem is we haven’t done any preliminary design work,” Allen said. “If we had done some preliminary design work, we’d probably go for the $25 million.”
Heartland Port officials hoped to receive a $750,000 BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in December that would pay for preliminary design work, but the grant was unsuccessful.
Two sites are being considered for the port. One plan would build a port on 116 acres of state-owned land on the south side of the Missouri River next to the Missouri National Guard Ike Skelton Training Facility. A second plan would split the port between the southern site in Cole County and a nearby 23-acre site on the north side of the river in Callaway County.
Both plans will cost at least $54.77 million, according to the chamber’s feasibility study.
The port authority has a better chance to receive a BUILD grant in 2019, Allen told the group Friday. “I think we’re in a lot better shape to get that grant,” he said.
Allen also highlighted the chamber’s work on the Missouri State Penitentiary Redevelopment. The Missouri State Penitentiary Community Partners — a board made up of Jefferson City, Cole County and local economic development officials — plans to send developers requests for qualifications this month to gauge their interest in redeveloping the 32-acre MSP site.
The project could be a huge benefit for the city but is challenging because Jefferson City lacks the critical mass of people that make large developments possible, Allen said.
Jefferson City announced in November it had secured $3.7 million in private funding to build an 826-foot bridge leading from an area near the Missouri State Capitol to Adrian’s Island. The island contains 30 acres of forests and wetlands between the Missouri River and Union Pacific railroad tracks.
The Adrian’s Island project will significantly improve the lives of Jefferson City residents, Allen said. For years, the project struggled to find public and private money to build the bridge. With private funding now secured, he said the project should progress faster than it would have with public funding.
“Since it’s all private funding, all of the negativity we’ve all heard is gone,” Allen said.