The departmental commission assesses the economic development efforts for 2022

As the year draws to a close, Cole County commissioners have begun to review their economic development plan for 2022.

The county’s approach to economic development takes two paths: hiring a consultant to promote economic development in the county and hiring a lobbying company to promote the county’s interests on the Capitol Hill. State.

The process goes back almost four years

Until that time, for more than 20 years, the County Commission and the City of Jefferson partnered to continue economic development and lobbying efforts through the Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce.

In 2018, county commissioners were unhappy with the return on investment in economic development and hired another company to lobby for the county and promote its economic development interests. Strategic Capitol Consulting was hired on a $ 120,000 contract for 2019. Jefferson City continued to contract with the Chamber of Commerce.

A year ago, the Chamber of Commerce announced that a study it had commissioned concluded that a regional entity, separate from the chamber, should be formed to continue economic development in Mid-Missouri.

The Jefferson City Regional Economic Partnership grew out of this study and the discussions that followed.

The JCREP, which would be based on a combination of private and public funding, would focus on regional economic development, while the chamber would focus more on serving member businesses instead of trying to recruit new businesses while serving existing ones. .

JCREP is run by a council of community members. They include: President Larry Kolb, of Kolb Properties; Vice President Kirk Farmer, Farmer Companies; Secretary Andy Stuckenschneider, Industrial Warehouse & Distribution; Central Bank Treasurer Dave Minton; Gregg Bexten, of Hawthorn Bank; Gaspare Calvaruso, from the Capital Region Medical Center; Jeff Davidson, of Modern Litho Print; Morgan Delong-Costello, of Delong’s Inc .; Steve Linton, of Diamond Pet Food; Jeffrey Patrick, MD, of JCMG; Chip Webb, from Ameren Missouri; Carrie Tergin, Mayor of the City of Jefferson; and Cole County Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher.

Diane Gillespie of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Gary Plummer, President of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, are ex-officio members.

In 2020, JCREP approached the county and city, offering to provide economic development services.

In November, Jefferson City Council agreed to pay JCREP $ 185,000 for the services.

In December, the county was asked for the same amount. But the county commission instead agreed to pay $ 120,000 and signed a contract in March.

In the county agreement, it is stated that the JCREP “will dedicate staff for the sole purpose of developing new businesses and that such staff will aggressively pursue new business and help developers attract new businesses for the entire county. of Cole “.

The contract expires on December 31. The county commission will begin reviewing its 2022 budget next month and discussions on financing economic development will be taken up at that time.

County lobbying efforts

The county is working to choose a potential lobbyist for the coming year.

In February, the county commission hired Strategic Capitol Consulting, the lobbying group that Cole County first contracted with in 2018, to provide advisory services to the county for six months.

Strategic Capitol Consulting was to monitor Missouri General Assembly legislation that might affect the county and put pressure on the executive branch of state government on behalf of the commission.

The contract called for the county to pay the lobbyist $ 5,000 per month for a total of $ 30,000, the amount the commission had budgeted in its 2021 budget.

The deal with Strategic Capital ended in June, and the county offered these services for 2022 in September. The offers are currently being evaluated.

County rating to be approached

A year after the start of new economic development and lobbying efforts, county commissioners are cautiously optimistic about the approach.

“We will always keep lobbying separate from the broader economic development agreement,” Hoelscher said. “We always need to have someone up there (at the State Capitol) to monitor what is happening to us.

“I like the direction the JCREP is taking. I met Executive Director Luke Holtschneider, and he’s energetic and has great ideas. I think we need to give him and the organization some time to prepare their plans, as he’s only been there for a few weeks.

Previously, Holtschneider was deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development before accepting the leadership role of JCREP.

“It’s just too early to say how this group will affect local economic development, so I think we need to give them some leeway right now,” Western District Commissioner Harry Otto said.

“This is a new concept and a new entity, and I hope it will boost economic development as they see it,” President Commissioner Sam Bushman said. “I met Luke and told him our most immediate need was to find workers to fill the positions.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I would like us to help companies already in place and trying to fill positions,” Bushman said.

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