As part of Word Marketing and the Columbia Business Times ongoing Power Lunch series, here is the published story on our latest Power Lunch forum on the local economy in Columbia.
REDI chairman taking economic development in creative direction
Before heading to the Tiger Hotel and making a presentation at a CBT lunch forum, Bob Black, the chairman of Regional Economic Development Inc., visited a new business that exemplifies the new direction REDI is taking.
In the REDI annual report that came out last month, Media Convergence Group and two manufacturers (Premier Paper and Engineered Plastic Components) were the only three names on the list of companies that located in Columbia in fiscal 2008.
Media Convergence Group just finished building a newsroom a stone’s throw away from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and has raised about $1 million from public and private sources for an online news video service that will be launched soon, according to the head of the company, Jim Spencer.
The company, which will generate revenue from online advertising, has received a grant from REDI, funding from the Centennial Investors, tax incentives from the state, and a low-interest loan that UM System President Gary Forsee helped secure with a letter of recommendation.
Media Convergence group was the first recipient of funds from REDI’s Flexible Incentive Program, which the company is using for relocation and operational expenses, Black said. The program, designed to attract new jobs to Boone County, targets high-wage life science and technology companies, manufacturing and high-impact projects.
On Sept. 12, during the J-School’s centennial celebration, Spencer, an alumnus and online business veteran, will make a presentation about the company’s Web site, which will monitor, synthesize and present international news stories from multiple perspectives.
“Exciting things are going on there,” Black said of the startup, which has four employees and will put journalism school students to work as part of a partnership with MU.
Mayor Darwin Hindman, a Power Lunch participant, agreed, saying that by helping the online media company open in Columbia, the city is taking advantage of its strengths.
To spur job growth in the Columbia area, Black said REDI is shifting to a more targeted, collaborative attitude toward economic development, focused primarily on MU and ideas generated at its multitude of disciplines.
“The ability to collaborate with the creative minds on this campus is something that is not available in many places in the world,” Black said during his presentation on REDI’s reorganization.
Natalie Krawitz, UM’s vice president of finance and administration, said during the forum that they are pushing for schools within the university-such as medicine, engineering, chemistry, veterinary medicine, journalism and business-to collaborate with each other and with local governments.
“We’re trying to change the culture,” Black said of the collaborative efforts. “Where the ideas are coming from today are not necessarily from individual schools, but from bringing people together with ideas to make even better ideas.”
REDI has trimmed its staff, no longer employing a marketing director and public relations director, and is searching for what Black called “a super-sales person” with an advanced degree in science.
“REDI has reached a fork in the road,” Black said. “The future is with the creative economy.”
Power Lunch Participants
- Bob Black. chairman, REDI ;
corporate development, Sircal
- Tracy Greever Rice, associate director, OSEDA
- Tom Atkins, president, Tom Atkins Investments
- Andrew Beverley, chairman, First National Bank
- Darwin Hindman, mayor, City of Columbia
- David Keller, president, Bank of Missouri
- Natalie Krawitz, UM System vice president
- Ed Robb, state representative, economic consultant
- Tom Schauwecker, Boone County assessor
- Karen Taylor, executive vice president, BCNB
- Bill Watkins, city manager, City of Columbia
- Rob Wolverton, president, R. Anthony Development
Participants received leather portfolio binders from Bank of Missouri and gift boxes from Stoney Creek Inn and ancillary materials from Kaleidescope Videoconferencing
Local economy aided by migration
Tracy Greever Rice, associate director of MU’s Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, presented an analysis of the local economy during the CBT forum.
The chart that got the most reaction from participants was one showing that 37 percent of the people working in Boone County live outside Boone County. Several said the high price of gas is encouraging some of those workers to move inside Boone County. Rob Wolverton said a significant percentage of the population growth can be attributed to migration, and that’s helping reduce an oversupply of rental units.