By Joe Sweeney
We were pleased to host the Missouri Economic Development Assembly in St. Louis on Sept. 3 for a long-overdue discussion of the state’s opportunities for business growth and challenges to the same.
And we were pleased by the turnout of three dozen influential executives from disparate interests and areas—private business and industry, higher education and state government, and various associations and interest groups. You can read more about that meeting on Page 9 of this month’s edition, and much more about it when our 2016 edition of Destination Missouri is released later this fall, at which time the DestinationMissouri.com Web sites goes live.
It was a gratifying kick-off to a series of economic development assemblies that Ingram’s editors and Show-Me Publishing, Inc. is planning each year to yield more granular discussions of how this unique public-private partnership can effectively drive business investment, attract companies and create jobs at a regional level.
The entire Destination Missouri project—including nearly 300 Web sites dedicated to each of the seven distinct and economically diverse regions of the state, to each of the 114 counties and to every city of reasonable population—was envisioned as a way to engage businesses and local governments to drive that growth from the local level up, rather than from the state level, top-down.
It has not been without its lessons in turf wars when it comes to public-sector economic-development efforts, and it’s been disappointing to see the lukewarm response to this from certain corners of state administration. That, perhaps, changes with a new administration, but therein is a key failing of state-level initiatives from the public side: They are at the whim of shifting political winds in Jefferson City. Because of that, they may lack long-term commitment and focus, and too often they can’t see the local trees in a statewide forest. Our organization has significant skin in the game and the expertise to help drive this bold private-public initiative.
The St. Louis assembly launched this effort with a statewide view. Ensuing assemblies will be conducted in each of the seven regions of the state. That’s the beauty of this project: It will help formulate regional and community-focused priorities. A statewide set of policies that views row-crop farmers or the cattle and hog interests of northwest Missouri through the same lens as cotton farmers in the bootheel will invariably miss a fundamental point of economics: Local matters. And it works better than state mandates.
The Destination Missouri initiative is driven by an entrepreneurial vision. We’ve invested more than $1 million and years of preparation to create business-information news and community-specific content that—I can promise you—will be matched by no other medium in this state, perhaps in the nation.
We’ve successfully promoted, hosted and chronicled more than 250 Industry Outlook and Economic Development Assemblies in the greater Kansas City area since 2000. And we’ve seen the benefits of having interdependent executives from diverse interests gather at one table, conversations that often engage direct competitors who otherwise might never find the need for collaboration.
Those assemblies have, to a large extent, been driven by the business side. We’ve enjoyed support from the public sector at city and county levels as well, but we’ll need that kind of backing from organizations representing private business and local government as we elevate this to an integrated statewide program. The bottom line is, we can’t do it alone. We’ll need the support of communities (business and goverment) who see the value of partnerships that drive growth specific to their communities and interests.
The leadership team at Show-Me Publishing, Inc. has been involved in busi- ness coverage through Ingram’s for 20 of the magazine’s 42 years, and has worked hard to make Ingram’s the state’s leading business publication. That’s not an empty boast; we have more readers in Missouri and Kansas than all business journals. Combined. We could continue to focus on what’s best for the KC region, wrap up our careers and say we’ve done our best.
But we also had success running publications in St. Louis, and we view both of these cities as home. We’re now at a point in this business and in our own lives where we want to create a legacy that will touch Missourians from one corner of the state to the others. When our work is done, we envision leaving behind a series of annual publications and a comprehensive suite of integrated Web sites that will combine legislative and breaking business news—local, regional, national, even international if it affects Missouri—with information, on-demand business intelligence, and development tools that promote each of the districts of the state and its communities therein.
Combined, we’re confident that these sites and publications will perpetually educate and attract businesses and jobs, and will increase the odds that even if one particular city or county doesn’t have exactly the attributes a company is looking for, another very well might.
At this point, there is no state funding driving this car—it’s all incumbent on the team at Ingram’s to get the show on the road. Whether you’re a business exec, elected official or a state official, we’d like to have you along for this important ride.
Let’s work together to showcase for the world the thriving business climate and exceptional quality of life in the Show-Me State.
Editor-In-Chief & Publisher