SIKESTON - After two years of work and lots of meetings, the prospect of an organization that speaks as one voice in an effort to bring jobs to Southeast Missouri is a reality.
Next on the list of things to do for the Southeast Missouri Economic Development Alliance is find an executive director. That will be among the topics of the group's meeting Feb. 17 at Portageville.
"I think the regional alliance is to the point where we are ready to take the next step and get an economic development professional on board who will keep the private-public coalition together," said Steve McPheeters, who has been instrumental in forming the alliance and is the SMEDA chairperson.
As a regional economic development alliance representing Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi, Pemiscot, Dunklin and Stoddard counties in Southeast Missouri, McPheeters explained the economic development person would highlight the advantages of the entire region. This is already a tactic used successfully by regions surrounding Southeast Missouri, he said.
"He would put us out there on regional conceptual basis, drive leads to local communities, develop conferences," McPheeters said about the director. "Obviously marketing is a key part of the duties - to try to show off our assets, encourage people to take a second look."
SMEDA's mix of public officials and private industry representatives seeks to bring all the players in the region together who have vested interest in expanding the economy in the area.
"The climate is right now," said McPheeters. "People are more accepting of the idea that if something comes to this region we will all benefit from it." He emphasized communities will continue to develop contacts and industry leads on their own. However, as SMEDA members, they realize if they can't fulfill a company's needs, they would point out other area communities which might.
While the organization is looking at new industry prospects, McPheeters said existing companies won't be left out. "The retention of existing businesses and their expansion makes up 80 percent of business development," he explained. "The other 20 percent is recruitment."
Part of SMEDA's role will be to work with regional companies on a variety of work force development issues. Of particular concern to area businesses who are considering expanding is the need for a better trained and educated work force, according to McPheeters.
Finally, another important aspect of the group, is bringing businesses in contact with each other. Often businesses may not be aware of what other companies may offer and SMEDA can provide a way to encourage local businesses to use local products as much as possible which will in turn continue to expand the local business climate, McPheeters explained.
Each county commission made appointments to the SMEDA Board and named an alternate. Serving are: Scott County, Jim Schwaninger (Ed Dust, alternate); Mississippi County, Claudia Arrington (Lonnie Thurmond, alternate); New Madrid County, Tom Bradley (Timmie Lynn Hunter, alternate); Pemiscot County, David Madison (Brian Taylor, alternate); Dunklin County, Russ Wiley, (Bill Hampton, alternate) and Stoddard County, Gary Capps, (alternate still to be named).
Business Council representatives on the Board are: Ameren Services, Skip Smallwood; Associated Electric, Mark Woodsen; Atmos Energy, Steve Steiger or J.W. Hackworth; First State Bank and Trust, Gordon Waller; and Noranda, Steve McPheeters.
Ex-officio representatives are: BRPC & ED Commission, Steve Duke; Southeast Missouri State University, Buzz Sutherland; Three Rivers Community College, Bud Joyner; and University of Missouri's MU Delta Center, Jake Fisher.
In January, the group established committee assignments. Members of the Search Committee for SMEDA director are: Schwaninger, Woodsen, Waller, Taylor and McPheeters
SMEDA's Conference Planning Committee has already put together two successful conferences. A spring conference is planned centering on transportation.
"Transportation is our number one priority to work on together," said McPheeters. "We want to look at how to market that advantage we have of the river, interstate and rail."
Planning committee members include Smallwood, Meyer, Madison, Waller, Missy Marshall and Arrington.
The SMEDA Board will meet at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Delta Center in Portageville. This meeting will include the election of officers and recommendations from the Search and Conference Planning committees. The Regional Business Council follows at 9:30 a.m.
Financial contributions to support the SMEDA 2006-2008 plan are currently be handled through the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce/ SMEDA Fund, 1 Industrial Drive, Sikeston, MO 63801 - Attention: Missy Marshall
For additional information contact McPheeters at 573-643-2361, extension 2075.