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REDI Report – December 26, 2015

2015 was a turnaround year for local economy

Let me first begin this edition of the “REDI Report” by wishing each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you have had the chance to spend the holidays with those you hold most dear and remember all those who don’t have such an opportunity whatever the reason may be.

As we wrap up 2015 and look ahead into 2016, we must reflect on some of the good things that have occurred during the past 12 months.

One of the key things that stood out to me is the vast improvement on the employment front for Lebanon and Laclede County. We concluded 2014 with an average annual unemployment rate of 8.1 percent and an average labor force of 15,786. In comparison, for the first 10 months of 2015, our average unemployment rate is 6.77 percent with an average labor force of 16,266. This means the past year was a major turnaround for our community and county as more people went to work and we have almost 500 more people in our labor pool than one year ago.

Much of this success can be attributed to the businesses and industries in our community and county that took a chance on investing or reinvesting in our area. We had key expansions and with them, in addition to money spent on construction or equipment upgrades, employers also opened up new positions for our workforce. And likewise we must say “thank you” to our citizens who go to work on a daily basis and make our labor pool attractive.

I was researching the archives of the Lebanon Daily Record from the past year and it was interesting to go back and see numerous residents recognized for long-term tenures with their respective companies. And I’m referencing decades of service to their employers not merely one or two years. That shows the work ethic that our labor force has and that is an attractive asset when our existing companies have a chance to expand their operations or when an outside entity is looking for a new or additional location to do business.

Fortunately, I firmly believe this momentum will continue into 2016 and we will have more good news on the horizon for our community and county over the next 12 months. As the old saying goes, “stay tuned!”

Workforce development is a critical element of the economic development process. No matter how good a location may be for a company, if the workforce lacks the important skills and abilities to do the job, it’ll never work out in the long run. In our region of the state, we have multiple agencies that work on this challenge. The Missouri Career Center has been a great help, assisting those seeking jobs by connecting them with available openings and aiding them in finding ways to improve their individual skill sets. I must also continue to “tip my hat” to the Lebanon Technology and Career Center (LTCC). The staff and the students at LTCC are truly getting themselves “college and career ready.” Many of the youth enrolled at LTCC have taken on important project-based initiatives and have helped their community and themselves by learning important business traits. We have a bright future unfolding before our very eyes.

I could go on and on about others who contribute to workforce improvement such as our higher education institutions, nonprofit agencies, etc. There really are too many to list and as I have said so many times – everyone is a part of the economic development process.

Drive around Lebanon and think back to what it looked like when you took the same trip a year ago. So many construction projects from new businesses to current businesses expanding have taken place during the past year. This is a great sign that we are turning a corner. But we must not let off the gas now. We want to keep the momentum going.

And finally, thank you for all YOU contributed as a citizen of Lebanon and Laclede County. Your contributions certainly do not go unnoticed and are greatly appreciated.

In closing, one more time, Happy Holidays to you and your families. See you in 2016!

(Brian Thompson is the President/Chief Executive Officer of Lebanon-REDI. He may be reached at his office at 200 E. Commercial Street at 417-533-5627, by mobile phone at 417-288-9737 or by e-mail at brian@lebanonredi.com)