CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,
Sept. 11, 2008 – Representatives of the Missouri Research Corporation (MRC) presented a final report of the Operation Jump-Start Community Leadership Program Sept. 4 at the monthly Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The final presentation reiterated the opinions of community leaders and members on various issues in Ste. Genevieve, said Gina Harper with Southeast’s Innovation Center. Those on hand for the presentation were members of the Operation Jump-Start team, Chamber members, city leaders, and several local, former small business grant winners from the Operation Jump-Start small business training classes held in the past 18 months.
MRC officials visited Ste. Genevieve twice in the past six months to collect information. During those visits, MRC representatives met with city leaders and community members to discuss concerns and issues in the Ste. Genevieve community. As a part of each two-hour forum, small groups were asked to answer key questions about the past, present and future of the city. The impact of the information was synthesized for the final presentation, Harper said.
According to the final report, both community leaders and members perceive Ste. Genevieve to be one of the friendliest, more progressive, and well-educated cities in this region. According to Harper, community members agreed with leaders that more should be done to welcome new businesses to the area. However, the report indicated that most believe Ste. Genevieve would oppose big box stores or cookie-cutter retail establishments, she said.
In addition, Dennis Roedemeier, chief executive officer of the MRC, presented data from the Center for Economic and Business Research at Southeast Missouri State University, revealing that community perceptions do not always match the facts. According to research, Ste. Genevieve County is ranked high among Missouri counties in which to live — in the top 10 percent, Harper said. However, the city has more than 10 percent of its children living in poverty, a subject never mentioned by either group during the initial meetings, according to Christy LeGrand, project coordinator for the MRC.
The Center for Economic and Business Research data also indicates Ste. Genevieve ranks in the top 20 percent of all public high schools in Missouri. In addition, the state crime rate is twice as high as that for Ste. Genevieve. Everyone agreed that Ste. Genevieve is a “peaceful and safe” place to live, Harper said.
The Center’s data also showed that while the community perceives Ste. Genevieve to be a progressive town, it had no population growth from 2000 to 2006. Meanwhile, the population of Ste. Genevieve County grew by 2.3 percent, Harper said. Roedemeier explained that community members aren’t leaving the area; there is just no current growth in the city of Ste. Genevieve.
Roedemeier also spoke of the power of one person. According to Harper, he emphasized the need for each person to “get involved” to make an idea become reality. Roedemeier stressed the importance of small business support and community youth to sustain it, the need for each person in the community to become involved in its future, and for future goals to begin with planning today.
“You cannot do everything,” Roedemeier said. “But you can do something.”
Balancing community opinions with facts and trends, the Operation Jump-Start team designed an action plan for Ste. Genevieve. The plan outlined areas of improvement and items which needed to be addressed by its leaders. The plan calls for the formation of an infrastructure committee, the addition of a new Innovation Center in Ste. Genevieve, a youth entrepreneurship component in the community, and the need to combine several current committees into one logical group that will address tourism and marketing as a whole, Harper said. Roedemeier said the community, under the leadership of Dick Greminger and Ron Armbruster, already has made great strides on some of the action items.
“We are not leaving you after today,” Roedemeier said at the end of the presentation. “We are going to be here every step of the way if you need resources to help.”
Bill Vickery, director of the Southeast Small Business Development Center, is a member of the Operation Jump-Start team. He provided each person in attendance with a summary of the resources MRC can access for Ste. Genevieve and its citizens and business owners, and urged those in attendance to contact the MRC for assistance.