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REDI Report – July 11, 2015

strong>Education key to prosperity

I once heard a state-level elected official say, “Economic development and education go hand-in-hand.” He was certainly right and that quote has stuck in my head for the better part of eight years as I have worked in the economic development field.

I was also traveling last weekend and noticed a billboard where a community was promoting its education/workforce effort, trying to attract new business and industry by proclaiming “We are training YOUR future workforce TODAY.”

It is so critical to have a strong educational presence in a community/county to make it stronger and more marketable to the outside world, and internally for those wishing to grow their existing businesses here. And we are certainly blessed in Lebanon and Laclede County in that regard.

In the short time I’ve been here, I have quickly learned that we have some very passionate educators and leaders in our school districts and early childhood education facilities. The sooner we start, the better off we will be. Habits and lifestyles are formed early and the longer a child goes down a path, the more likely he or she will stay on that path – good or bad.

And once a student completes his or her initial secondary education, our higher education ties are very strong here. At a recent function, I learned a little more about the partnership between Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) and Missouri State University (MSU). As I hope everyone knows, the two institutions work together right here in Laclede County on Highway MM at the OTC Lebanon Center. Students can even benefit from some degree programs that are offered right here in Lebanon, allowing them to work on significant portions of a 4-year degree without leaving home. That is huge for us. The savings in driving and/or not living on a college campus can add up quickly for a student and his or her parents. We have great leadership with Dusty Childress from OTC and Gib Adkins from MSU and their respective teams from the two institutions. I see nothing but great growth potential with this partnership, and trust me, businesses and industries notice this as well.

I don’t want to overlook Drury University and its presence in town as well. The institution is in the midst of a move and I am glad to see that Drury will continue to have a Lebanon footprint. I can only hope that we maintain this and the institution is able to grow and prosper.

I was having a good, quality discussion with a local father and daughter business owners earlier this week. We were talking a lot about where Lebanon has been and where it can go. I think we all agreed that this is a wonderful community full of great people. And despite challenges over the last decade with economic downturns and such, we see great things on the horizon. Education, from the very beginning onward, is a key part of that.

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Have a great weekend all!

(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)