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story.lead_photo.caption Mike Kehoe Photo by News Tribune / News Tribune.

The statewide Buy Missouri program is forging local business connections and spreading the word about Missouri-made products.

Oct. 9-16 is the fourth annual Buy Missouri Week, which encourages the purchase of goods and products made in the state.

Throughout the week, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe is working with the program to host the virtual 2021 Buy Missouri Day and promote Missouri businesses and products through social media.

The virtual 2021 Buy Missouri Day features an hour-long video showcasing the work and stories of Buy Missouri's manufacturers, businesses and retail locations.

Gov. Mike Parson founded the Buy Missouri program while serving as lieutenant governor in 2017. The initiative is an effort to strengthen the state's economy by recognizing and promoting Missouri companies and manufacturers.

The program continues to be run out of the lieutenant governor's office under Kehoe, who sponsored legislation establishing the second Saturday in October as Buy Missouri Week while serving in the state Senate.

"As I travel throughout the state, I am always amazed at the ingenuity, initiative and creativity of Missourians," Kehoe said in a news release. "Buy Missouri Week promotes terrific products manufactured right here in Missouri. The week also reminds Missourians that when we buy Missouri-made products, we support our friends, family and neighbors who work at, and own, these businesses."

As of July, 447 businesses across 90 counties were registered as Buy Missouri members, meaning they are recognized for making products containing at least 51 percent materials from Missouri.

In Cole County, there are 16 Buy Missouri members, including Blacksmith Distillery in Lohman.

Mike Broker, Blacksmith Distillery chief executive officer and co-founder, said he joined the Buy Missouri program after creating a Bicentennial bourbon to celebrate the state's 200 years of statehood and hearing others promote the initiative.

"Obviously, we're made in Missouri, we use nothing but Missouri grains to make it, and so we said, 'Yeah, let's be a part of it to promote the local stuff,'" Broker said.

While being a weekend-only business makes tracking sales comparisons difficult, Broker said the 2.5-year-old distillery recently had another Buy Missouri member purchase a private label batch of 200 bottles.

"They found us via Buy Missouri because they are a Buy Missouri member, too," Broker said. "So, in that respect, yes, it absolutely has impacted us."

Broker said he's watching the Buy Missouri program to find potential vendors within the state who could help Blacksmith Distillery produce promotional gear, such as hats, shirts and bottles.

He said the program's developing community is exciting.

"As more and more businesses join (Buy Missouri) and it grows, they're going to look, like we did, at who else is part of this program and how can we support them," Broker said.

Kehoe also has faith in the program's growth.

"It has been a great year for the program, and we are well on our way to reaching 500 members by the end of 2021," Kehoe said.

There are 21 Buy Missouri members in Boone County, 10 in Osage County and nine in Callaway County. Surrounding counties — including Gasconade, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller and Maries Counties — have a total of 15 members.

In addition to Buy Missouri members, the program rolled out Buy Missouri Retail Partnerships this year, which recognizes retail locations selling Missouri-made products around the state.

The Buy Missouri program promotes its members and retail partnerships on its website.

The initiative currently has 21 retail partners throughout the state, including Dogwood Vintiques in Jefferson City.

Callaway County and Boone County each have two Buy Missouri retail partners, while Osage County and Miller County each have one. There are currently no other retail partners in neighboring counties.

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