They came together to discuss economic development strategies that will benefit both Jackson County and the entire state of Missouri. Five Missouri State representatives and five eastern Jackson County mayors participated in the forum Friday, August 26 that quickly evolved into a brainstorming session with one dominant topic -- topics.
Jackson County Legislator Crystal Williams (2nd District At-Large) also participated.
The elected officials were joined by the Missouri Department of Economic Development Deputy Director Mike Downing, Jackson County Economic Development Director Robbie Makinen and economic development officials from several eastern Jackson County communities. State Representative Jeanie Lauer (54th District) of Blue Springs conducted the meeting, with Makinen assisting her in coordinating the gathering. Jackson County hosted the meeting at the Fred Arbanas Golf Course.
"We're not going to end up with one magic fix here today," said Lauer. "The idea is to get the ideas down."
Retaining Jobs & Creating New Ones
While assisting start-up businesses was a focal point of the meeting, all agreed that incentives to retain jobs are equally important as those geared toward creating new jobs. Lauer, who serves on the Missouri State House's Economic Development Committee, stressed that she intends to hold more meetings to generate ideas that may influence an overhaul of state and local development incentives.
Helping Start-Ups Get Started
While many State incentive programs are geared toward attracting large companies, Independence Economic Development Council President Tom Lesnak pointed out that businesses of all sizes need more capital. During the economic downturn, acquiring capital through loans and/or grants has become very difficult, preventing some businesses -- especially smaller ones -- from getting on sound economic footing to take on the costs associated with hiring additional employees.
"Seed capital is huge," stated Lesnak.
In her talks with local business owners, Lauer noted a reluctance among them to expand right now. They, she said, were more inclined to save rather than spend until there is an upturn in the economy.
Lauer added that she is planning to form a task force to study and address economic development issues.
"Assisting Representative Lauer in her effort to get people talking is in line with our objective to be a consensus builder regarding economic development," Makinen said. "The County will continue to strive to bring our communities together in a united effort to spark new development and to help our already existing businesses grow."