Economic Development plan includes four counties

SET Plan - Chris Wigger, president of the First State Community Bank of Ironton (left) and Iron County Presiding Commissioner Jim Scaggs hold a copy of a new study to be used by a four-county coalition to market the area for economic development.  Both have been involved in the group who sought the study.

The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has given the Parkland Regional Economic Development Initiative’s (REDI) plan for stimulating economic growth in the region its highest rating of “High Quality.” 

The Parkland REDI is a regional coalition formed by the Presiding Commissioners of Iron, Madison, St. Francois, and Ste. Genevieve Counties in 2009. This group has been dedicated to combining the strengths and assets of the four counties together to bring economic development to the four-county region. 

Al Sullivan, a founding member of the REDI and president of the St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), is proud of the commitment to teamwork the region has shown: “Since the Parkland REDI was formed ... there have been 10 different Presiding Commissioners elected among the four counties, and every one of them, regardless of political party, has renewed his county’s commitment to the coalition without hesitation.”

“This is essentially a regional, four-county economic development group,”said Jim Scaggs, presiding commission in Iron County.  “When this thing was formed, the idea was to pool our resources to become a regional economic 

group that is stronger than the single county groups.  This group was organized in 2009 with the four county commissioners meeting monthly to talk economic development.  We signed a memorandum of understanding and it was very helpful working with some companies (that were interested in the area).

“It was a painful process.  It was not easy to get all four counties to agree on what should be happening.” 

The Parkland REDI has worked closely with the Missouri Partnership, Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission (SEMO RPC), local businesses, and community leaders to help promote the region globally and build a stronger economic base. The Parkland REDI was responsible for a comprehensive industrial site study conducted in 2011 by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a global leader in site consulting for multi-national corporations such as Nissan, Boeing, and Procter & Gamble, which identified multiple sites in the region for potential industrial development. 

Since then, the Parkland REDI has worked with property owners of many of these sites to promote and develop them for industrial activities.

“The consulting group identified large tracts of land for industrial development and gathered other data related to the regional goal,” Scaggs said. That has been done and there are some areas in Iron County that have been identified (for possible development).

“A committee was appointed by the Presiding Commissioners to continue the work.  The commissioners, in turn, appointed two representatives from each county to continue the work.  That committee is a sub-committee of the Southeast Regional Planning Commission and functions as such today.”

In 2015, the USDA offered a program known as SET (Stronger Economies Together) to promote regionalism.  The Parkland REDI applied for a grant for the project and it was approved. 

As a product of the SET process, the Parkland REDI developed the “Parkland REDI Economic Development Plan,” which has been rated as a “High Quality Economic Development Plan” by the USDA. 

The group identified three goals: the first, Industrial Attraction, second Workforce Development and, third Business Retention and Expansion.  There will be a website developed to market the plan.

This rating opens the door to benefits for the entire region when applying for grants with the USDA, such as bonus points on applications and access to special funds, as well as additional legitimacy when working with other agencies. The plan includes specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely actions targeted at improving the economic health of the region.

If you would like to help the Parkland REDI develop and grow the economy of your community, there will be a REDI Actions public meeting in late January to kick-off the implementation of the actions from the “Parkland REDI Economic Development Plan,” or you can contact your Presiding County Commissioner or Drew Christian with the SEMO RPC at 573-547-8357 or dchristian@semorpc.org.