So, I am now officially in my fifth month as the Bates County Economic Developer. I really just want to use this blog entry to give an overview of how these first months have been going so that you can see kind of where I am. Before I start though, it is important for me to explain that this kind of job has a certain amount of discretion to it. While I would love to write on here every time a business is showing interest in Bates County, I cannot do that. When a business is looking to expand or relocate, they oftentimes would like to stay anonymous until a final decision is made. Once they do make a decision (whether it is this county or not) there are then guidelines to follow on what needs to be done before any announcement is made. To sum it up nicely…trust me, whenever anything is happening, the moment I am allowed to say anything about it, I will.
With all of that being said, there are still a lot of things going on in the County that I can discuss. I spent a good month or so at Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission, really just taking in everything around me. I sat down with representatives of the cities, went to council meetings, and club meetings just to meet as many people as possible. I also attended quite a few conference, like the American Planning Association Missouri Conference and the Missouri Economic Development Council Fall Conference. Because of all of this, I was able to create a huge to-do list and prioritize it.
I have a simple philosophy about how to help this county grow economically. As cheesy as it sounds, you have to have a foundation before you can build a house. I am really approaching this job by not looking at what the county needs, but what assets it already has to grow on. Bates County has great asset, for example: Interstate 49, railroads, supportive towns, land, the hospital, the museum, schools, Rich Hill’s parks, Butler Square, Adrian’s Main Street, and many more.
To grow upon this, I am starting to write a few plans throughout the County. Rich Hill had a Sidewalks Plan written a few years ago, so to build on that I am starting to work on a Streets Plan. Adrian’s Economic Development group had started researching Economic Development Plans, so I am going to build upon that. Then there is Butler who has a Comprehensive Plan and Subdivision Regulations that were written more than 30 years ago, so I am updating them. All of these plans will be done with a process and community involvement because I value all members of this community and their opinions. I believe that community involvement is important for anything like this, so when I get beyond just the setup phase I will let everybody know. What all of these plans have in common is that they are long term and will help determine the best way to move forward.
So that is kind of the big picture. On a smaller scale, one project I have recently started (and am really excited about) is business development. While bringing businesses from the outside is great, it is just as important to grow the existing businesses from within. Bates County is a great county, with great businesses in place, and it needs to be marketed that way. I am working on possibly having seminars to assist with this, whether your business needs help marketing, or you would like to expand, I want to try to cover it. Google is one of the largest search engines in the world, so when somebody is searching for anything in the region, I want to make sure that businesses in this county are included. Taking advantage of the internet is the best possible way you can market your business, like using Facebook or Twitter, or even just creating a simple webpage. In order to do something like this, there needs to be interest, so I will soon be going around to businesses to just get acquainted with the owners and see what their needs are. If you are interested in sitting down with me to discuss this I would love for you to reach out to me so we may be able to setup a time to meet.
There are quite a few other small projects I am always working on, like constantly trying to find grant money for anything. I am always attending functions and staying as involved as possible. Butler has started up the Community Betterment group again, so if anybody would like to be involved with that feel free to contact me. The more people that come to the meetings, the better!
There are a few specific topics I will be touching on next time, such as everything going on in Missouri right now, especially with the one cent sales tax. As always, feel free to contact me with anything! Whether it is just meeting for lunch or if you have any ideas about improving our area, I am here to listen first and foremost for you.