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REDI Report – June 11, 2016

We have much to celebrate in Lebanon and Laclede County

As I sit at my desk to type this edition of the “REDI Report” I really want to start by asking everyone to truly count your blessings here in Lebanon and Laclede County. I know it can be easy sometimes to get on a bandwagon of “we don’t have this, or we don’t have that,” or to be angry at this issue or that situation right here at home. But as we have all seen over the last several days and really throughout this year, we have certainly been blessed not to deal with some of the issues that places around our nation have had to struggle with.

This doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen here or couldn’t happen here. But one of the benefits of being in a community and county like we live in are that we are more respectful of each other and care for our neighbors a little more than some places seem to do. When times get tough for one of our own, we typically step up to the plate and help friends or family in need. I just wish that sympathy and caring nature could transport itself to other places that are grieving right now.

With that said, from an economic development standpoint in this column I want to focus on two things that continue to showcase the good tidings that we are blessed to have going on in our hometown area.

First are the latest unemployment figures for Laclede County. The month of May showed continued success for us. Our unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, its lowest tally since May 2007. We had our largest May labor pool since the same month in 2008. Our situation as far as employment continues to stay strong with our existing labor pool. Jobs are still available and I continue to encourage anyone looking for employment to visit our Missouri Career Center at 2639 South Jefferson in Lebanon.

While today’s numbers look good, and hopefully will for the foreseeable future, we have to be concerned about tomorrow and develop ways to create a long-term workforce development effort. As I have mentioned many, many times in this column in the last 16 months, Lebanon Technology and Career Center (LTCC) is a leader in this initiative. One of LTCC’s most recent efforts is the creation of an apprenticeship program in partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Labor (DOL). As part of the program, students wishing to become journeymen welders or machinists will have the opportunity to complete intense programs starting in their junior years of high school that will translate beyond high school. During their tenures, they will even begin to complete a pay check by working with partnering industries. Last week, a ceremony was held at Lebanon High School to recognize students, their families and businesses participating in the program. Three students were “signed” by the industries for the program. The trio is already working at either Cambarloc Engineering and Manufacturing, Inc., or Metaltech Products, Inc.

I have been honored to be a part of some interesting events throughout my career in community and economic development, and even before that in journalism. But seeing these students and their parents so proud was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever experienced professionally. Being involved in this program really means something to the students and their families. This is workforce development folks! These three, and others who will participate in the future, will transform our labor pool.

Earning a college degree is something I am extremely proud of. That was the proper path for me and it opened many doors in life that otherwise might have been closed. However, my path is not the only path. We have to provide opportunities for everyone and to let them know that whichever path they choose it is fine. As long as a person contributes to our society and has passion for what he or she does, the choice should be theirs. And the program at LTCC is a strong push in this direction. I commend LTCC Director Keith Davis, his staff and educators who are working hard to develop our workforce.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and please consider our fallen neighbors in other parts of the country who are dealing with some really unimaginable issues right now.

(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)