SIKESTON - The regional economic development partnership concept for Southeast Missouri has taken another step toward reality with the formation of a steering committee and the selection of a name.
During meetings held since the idea was introduced in October, six counties expressed an interest in participating and selected representatives for a steering committee, according to Steve McPheeters of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce's Business-Industrial Committee.
"There's a lot of interest," McPheeters said. "A lot of folks are wanting to get on board with us."
Steering committee members decided during their meeting Thursday to name the partnership the Southeast Missouri Economic Development Alliance.
Scott County Economic Developer Jim Schwaninger and Sikeston Department of Economic Development Director Bill Green represent Scott County on the committee; Claudia Arington and Lonnie Thurman were selected for Mississippi County; Presiding County Commissioner Clyde Hawes and Mike Meyers are filling New Madrid County's seats; Patrick McHaney and Dr. Larry Stovall are sitting on the committee for Dunklin County; and Gary Capps and Charles Rushing are Stoddard County's representatives.
Pemiscot County has not selected a second representative as of yet, having only named David Madison as their representative so far.
Additionally, the committee includes at-large members: Steve Duke and Connie Busby from the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission in Malden; Skip Smallwood of AmerenUE and Mark Woodson of Associated Electric; Missy Marshall, SACC director; Janet Coleman, Dexter Chamber of Commerce director; and McPheeters who will chair the committee and represent the St. Jude Industrial Park.
The Alliance will receive both guidance and support from AmerenUE and Associated Electric, McPheeters said, with possible seed money to get the Alliance up and running coming from private grants such as those offered by AmerenUE and Associated Electric. "Both of these utilities have worked on other regional economic development concepts," he said.
McPheeters said these two companies demonstrate that both co-ops and investor-owned electric companies recognize the benefit of regional marketing partnerships: "If the area grows, they get more customers."
The Alliance will work as partners with the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission, according to McPheeters. "They take care of a lot of the infrastructure needs but they really don't have a marketing arm," he said.
For the Alliance, enhancing economic development opportunities through regional marketing and a branding strategies will be the focus.
"This is the way (business and industry) site locators are looking at it now," McPheeters said "They're looking at regions, not communities."
The steering committee's next task is finishing up a regional economic partnership agreement modeled on the one used by the Ozark Regional Economic Partnership in the Springfield area.
The committee is slated to meet Feb. 5 at the BRPC in Malden to finalize an agreement draft.
Eventually the Alliance will expand participation to include a larger advisory council, McPheeters said.
Cities, counties, chambers of commerce and economic developers in the region need to recognize "common interests" and the value of "working together for our mutual benefit," McPheeters said. Improving communication will also be important, he added.
"The steering committee will meet monthly as we develop further marketing strategies for this region as a region," McPheeters said, with the goal being to determine how best to serve and enhance existing resources.
"We need to develop strategies for doing a better job of competing, bringing more jobs and economic opportunities to the entire region," said McPheeters. "What's good for one is good for the entire region. Think of what we can do if we all pull together."