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City leaders along I-55 form new economic development group

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

As industrial site selectors are taking a more regional approach when looking for locations, Southeast Missouri communities are making an effort to market themselves as a region.

"In this global economy, you've got to act regionally and that's what we're doing," said Perry County Economic Development Authority director Scott Sattler, a member of the new Interstate 55 Corridor Group.

The group has members from Sikeston, Scott City, Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Perryville as well as Perry, Cape Girardeau and Scott counties.

"It's still in its infancy," Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger said. "We've come together and had one meeting. We have no specific plans or marketing thoughts together yet."

He hopes the group will bring synergy to the specific economic development efforts of communities within the group.

"Just communication and knowing each other and what's going on in each other's community will be helpful," Rediger said.

The joint effort will not infringe on or supersede any local plans of any of the member communities, he said.

Sikeston's Executive Academy, made up of about 25 community leaders, reached out to other communities along Interstate 55 to get the group started, said Steve McPheeters, a member of the academy.

"I think the Do It Best moving from Nash Road to Sikeston's industrial park was the thing that kind of put it in perspective," McPheeters said. "There's a lot we can gain from working with each other versus trying to always compete."

Site selectors are looking at regions and not concerning themselves with county or city boundaries, Rediger said.

"They're not going to look at four different locations within 30 miles, they're looking at what might be right within a region. That trend is going to continue," Rediger said.

Communities can also broaden their reach with industrial site selectors by pooling their financial resources on combined marketing efforts, he said.

Sattler and Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO John Mehner worked together at an event in June coordinated by the Missouri Partnership, the state's economic recruitment organization. The Missouri Partnership brought the nation's top 10 industrial site selectors to the Lake of the Ozarks to meet with representatives from across the state, including Mehner and Sattler, who took a regional approach.

"It helped stretch our marketing dollars to a wider audience by us partnering," said Sattler, who didn't have the budget to participate in this event on behalf of Perry County alone. "I brought it up to my board, but it was too much for just our community. John and I went together to represent Perry County and Cape Girardeau and Magnet, which allowed us to put together regional marketing material to give to the site selectors."

Sattler said anything that locates in Cape Girardeau benefits Perry County, and vice versa, because both communities share a labor pool.

Perry County has long had some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, at 4.8 percent in August while the state average was 7.1 percent.

"Perryville has low unemployment, so when we pull in a company, we have to expand the market to find workers to work in our companies. That benefits all of us," Sattler said.

The I-55 Corridor Group will meet quarterly and is expected to hold its next meeting in January, Rediger said.



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