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Region forms economic development partnership

Region forms economic development partnership

Representatives of 12 counties surrounding Columbia and stretching down to the Lake of the Ozarks have agreed in principle to form a business-led organization that will promote economic development throughout the region.

Missouri CORE Partnership is the group’s name, and the acronym stands for Connecting Our Regional Economy. The clever moniker, and a logo that shows a wheel with 12 spokes, are part of the plan to brand the region as an economic entity.

An ad-hoc steering committee will meet Monday in Jefferson City to continue developing the organizational structure.

The Columbia and Jefferson City chambers of commerce worked together during the summer and fall to get the project moving, starting with the concept that banding together can help Missouri’s “core” attract and retain major industries and infrastructure funding and improve its political influence in the state capitol.

“We did a pretty poor job in the last legislative session,” said Bob Gerding, an accounting firm owner and immediate past president of the Columbia Chamber who is the project’s point man.

Missouri CORE Partnership 

The participating counties are Boone, Cole, Cooper, Audrain, Randolph, Camden, Callaway, Morgan, Miller, Moniteau, Osage and Howard. Missouri CORE plans to hire a director by February, and the Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce will provide the office space.

The group will be led by a board of directors made up of one representative from each county and five to eight representatives of regional businesses that agree to pay half of the $200,000 annual operating budget. A county’s portion of the other half of the funding will be based on its sales tax revenue. The directors will not be politicians or government administrators; membership will be limited to representatives of chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and businesses.

For example, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce will be the “go to” organization in Boone County, which will pay 39 percent of the group’s funding because its sales tax revenue equals 39 percent of the 12-county total. The group has identified two dozen regional businesses to approach for funding, and ideally will get $20,000 apiece from five companies. Business members will in turn get seats on the board.

In an upcoming Chamber of Commerce newsletter, Gerding writes, “It is a diverse group of counties spread over a large geographical area with many assets including an educated work force, infrastructure, recreational activities and diverse economic engines. We are also faced with many challenges in the region such as increased competition, splintered political support, declining manufacturing, loss of jobs, lagging retail sales, lack of ready industrial sites and an ineffective airport.”

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