(Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Area residents, local officials and state legislators filled all available seating and stood in the aisles in Council Chambers to hear Blunt's comments on Sikeston's participation in the program.
DREAM is "a very good initiative and it really is a part of a larger effort to revitalize the state's economy," Blunt said.
Blunt said before he became governor, Missouri had been losing thousands of jobs which was a concern for him. He said his response was to initiate positive changes such as workers compensation reform and regulatory relief for employers that have resulted in nearly 85,000 new jobs being created in the state since January 2005.
"Our economy is growing -- we want to ensure that continues," Blunt said.
To accomplish this, Blunt said he asked Greg Steinhoff, director of the state's Department of Economic Development, "to look at all the programs to determine what's working, what's not working, what's utilized, what's underutilized."
Blunt said Steinhoff advised him that "we have a lot of great programs for downtown redevelopment, downtown revitalization, but our small and medium size communities don't seem to use those as much as our largest cities." He explained "because of their complexity, these are tools that were difficult to access. If you're in our state's largest cities, you can hire the teams of attorneys and consultants to access the programs."
The DREAM Initiative was designed to be "less complicated, provide greater access" for smaller communities to "give them prioritized, accelerated access to these tools ... it is about leveling the playing field for small and medium sized communities like Sikeston," Blunt said, to "give them the same access as our largest communities."
The program takes "a comprehensive approach to economic development," he said. "The DREAM Initiative is not about redesigning one sidewalk, fixing up one dilapidated building ... but it's about a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization and redevelopment that really ensures that the downtown remains or becomes a center of economic activity, a center of job creation, a center of commerce for the community and the region."
Partners in the DREAM Initiative -- the state DED, Missouri Development Finance Board, Missouri Housing Development Commission, Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Division of Tourism, Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Transportation -- are "all working together to address a multitude of issues that might exist for a single community," Blunt said.
Selected communities become active members of the DREAM Initiative for three years, according to Blunt.
Blunt said he will return to Sikeston periodically "to see the progress that I know will occur if you make the most of your DREAM designation."
The first communities selected for the program have "already seen good results" after their first year in the program as the "$30 million in public assistance has generated $70 million in private investment," he said.
"I have no doubt that we will continue that success with this class of DREAM communities," Blunt said in closing. "I want to congratulate Sikeston on being selected and the vision and energy you've demonstrated to lever your selection."
In introducing Blunt before his remarks, Mayor Mike Marshall said, "the governor is a friend of Sikeston" who has helped the city with other important issues in the past.