REDI Report – April 17, 2016

Future workforce development well underway in Lebanon, Laclede County

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in some of the bad publicity you see and hear from national media. We often receive the most negative stories possible, with the more positive news buried somewhere that even the best scavenger has a hard time of finding it. Well, let me put some good news front and center about the future of Lebanon and Laclede County in this edition of the “REDI Report.”

The past two weeks have been very fulfilling in seeing what the future holds with the youth of our community and county.

Last week, I had the honor of participating in a full day of activities at the Lebanon Technology and Career Center (LTCC) at Lebanon High School. The events were part of LTCC’s annual job fair where students have the chance to give presentations to local employers or community leaders as well as participate in mock job interviews. Despite being classified as “mock” interviews, the students actually have the chance to make an impression on actual employers taking part in the event. And who knows? Some of those conversations may lead to actual job opportunities for the students.

While obviously I didn’t have jobs to offer like a larger business or industry, I did have the chance to learn a little more about the 15 individuals who stopped by the REDI table to present their resumes and discuss their future aspirations. I was so impressed with our youth. Some were not exactly sure what the future will hold, but were continuing to work toward it realizing that there is no true crystal ball to see what for sure will happen. Others have things figured out to the point that arrangements have been made as to what career path they are taking, what college or trade school they may go to, or for those not getting a higher education – what type of job they want to pursue after high school graduation.

Fast forward to just two days ago at the Lebanon Rotary Club meeting and club members received a wonderful presentation from fourth and fifth grade students participating in the Boswell Elementary Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program. These kids literally hit a home run talking about how much fun they are having in the program and some of the things they are learning as part of it. They were so well spoken and appeared to have little, if any nervousness in front of a pretty good sized crowd of professional adults.

Kudos to our educators at all of our local districts and at all levels for doing what they do to help build our future workforce. While I will say we have challenges that we will always need to address when it comes to workforce development, I will always be proud of the labor pool we have in Lebanon and Laclede County. We have some very hard working people here who all help keep our economy moving forward. Without them we would not be as great a place to live and work as we are. And combine that with the educators we have doing their best to mold our young people into productive citizens and really the sky is the limit.

These two events with students at different points in their educational career were just an additional reminder that we can compete with anybody in this global economy. Like a proud coach of his or her team, I am very proud to be one of many who get to represent our community and county in the position I am blessed to hold. I will stop short of being too cheesy by saying that our future is so bright that I have to wear shades at night – but it truly is looking very positive for Lebanon and Laclede County.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 (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

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REDI Report – March 12, 2016

Jobless rate lowest since January 2007

Things are off to a great start for Lebanon and Laclede County in 2016 from a jobs number perspective. The unemployment rate for our county during the month of January was 6.2 percent. This was our best January tally since 2007. We also had our largest labor force total (16,297) since 2009. The turnaround trends of 2015 are continuing into the current year and we should all be thankful and proud of the part we each have been blessed to play in making this happen.

One of the many great companies in Lebanon that contributes to the success of local and regional economy is Carmeco. Started by J. Kenneth Carr, Carmeco has been a valuable member of the Lebanon and Laclede County community for more than 45 years. The company’s Lebanon facilities offer a full line of services for the original equipment manufacturing (OEM) market. The team at Carmeco can handle most types of metal fabrication or stamping. During my first few months on the job at Lebanon Regional Economic Development, Inc. (Lebanon-REDI), I was blessed to be given a tour of the Carmeco facilities and was very impressed by what the company and its team can do.

With that all denoted, I’m proud that Tech44 will host one of its “Bring on Breakfast” events in our community on Thursday, March 17 and right on-site at Carmeco. Not only will attendees be treated to a FREE breakfast, but also a chance to learn more about the Tech44 organization and its mission to connect business and industry along the Interstate-44 corridor from St. Louis to Joplin – which obviously Lebanon and Laclede County are very much a part of. The breakfast event formally begins at 7:15 a.m. that day. Despite no cost as mentioned, registration is required to assist with final planning purposes. Visit to sign up.

In shifting gears a little bit, I want to thank everyone who has participated in the housing survey that is part of an on-going project to assess our housing needs, challenges and opportunities in Lebanon and Laclede County. Small focus groups of local representatives met last week to discuss some our area’s housing situation and similar meetings will be held in the future. If you have not been a part of the process, but want to directly participate, feel free to contact me at anytime at one of the methods listed below. We would certainly love to have you included as part of the planning efforts and of course, in the follow-up implementation stages. Also, if you have not taken the housing survey yet, please do so. It can be found at

In closing this edition of the REDI Report, I want to take the time to thank this entire community and county for being very welcoming in my first full year here. It seems like only yesterday that I walked into the REDI offices for the very first day on the job. No matter the situation you inherit, it is always a little scary to come to a new town and to begin a new job. During the past 12 months, people here have been very helpful and I feel truly blessed to have found Lebanon and Laclede County. “Thank you” is really not enough to express my appreciation. I look forward to the remainder of 2016 as there are several activities on-going and on the horizon that I really feel will pay benefits to us for the long haul.

Have a great weekend everyone!

(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

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REDI Report – February 27, 2016

Positive local projects will grow as weather warms

Spring is literally right around the corner and in recent days we’ve had a glimpse or two from Mother Nature as to what spring 2016 can hold from a weather perspective. And certainly as the temperatures rise and the weather cooperates, we will start to see many projects throughout our community and county progress. That is certainly exciting to think about.

Tourism is one of the key economic drivers of Lebanon and Laclede County, as well as for the state of Missouri. I’ve been fortunate in recent weeks to hear presentations about the impact of tourism from local and state levels.

Dan Lennon, director of the Missouri Division of Tourism, was a guest presenter at the recent Missouri Economic Development Council Winter Conference held in Jefferson City. During his presentation to attendees, Dan gave an update on the impact tourism had for the state of Missouri during fiscal year 2015. Tourism had an economic impact of $15.9 billion on the state during 2015. That is no typo folks – billions of dollars in impact for our wonderful Show Me State. More than 40 million people visited the state last year and almost 300,000 direct jobs were supported as a result of tourism. That is huge for the state’s economy and here in Lebanon and Laclede County we certainly feel a significant impact as well with our many tourism assets.

One local asset in particular that I am getting more and more excited about is the Route 66 theme park that is under construction at Boswell Park. Once completed, I truly believe the park will bring new visitors to Lebanon and Laclede County. And one of the best things they will bring with them is their disposable incomes to spend in our restaurants, motels, retail centers, convenience stores, etc.

Murals will adorn the park and become a place where tourists can take pictures. And as Paul Whitehill of Whitehill Enterprises, a firm assisting with the mural project, mentioned during recent civic club presentations, these photos will be shared across social media forums worldwide exposing new potential visitors to what Lebanon and Laclede County have to offer. What a win-win situation all the way around!

Of course, all projects of this magnitude require funding and the Route 66 murals are no different. I commend Laclede County for making a significant contribution to the overall project and encourage individuals and businesses throughout our community and county to consider doing the same – whether financially or in promotional ways or other means. The Lebanon Area Foundation is the administrator for any funding donated, so more information can be found by visiting or by calling 417-532-8868.

The Route 66 mural project is just one of the great initiatives underway in our great community and county. One other initiative that I would like to share in closing this edition of the REDI Report is a housing study that the City of Lebanon is participating in. This study will give us an overview of the housing needs, challenges and opportunities for Lebanon and Laclede County.

As with any study, this will require feedback from the community at-large. A survey has been developed by the project’s lead consultant and can be accessed at Please help us by providing feedback as we all can contribute to the process.

Enjoy the final weekend of February everyone!

(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

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REDI Report – February 13, 2016

Area represented well at economic development conference

I was honored this past week to attend the 2-day Missouri Economic Development Council’s Winter Conference held in Jefferson City. MEDC is an organization made up of economic development professionals throughout the state of Missouri. The entity hosts several conferences throughout the year to connect economic developers with resources and programs that will help them grow professionally and, most importantly, to help them better serve the communities they reside in.

The conferences typically have panels that feature experts from various subject matters related to the field of economic development. The MEDC Winter Conference featured a panel on National Manufacturers’ Day, which is held each year during the month of October.

Lebanon and Laclede County were well represented as one of the panel speakers was Tom Waters, president of our very own DTE (also commonly known as Detroit Tool and Engineering). Tom provided information about his company as well as its participation in National Manufacturers’ Day.

The special event is a nationwide effort to showcase the manufacturing industry and to let people know about the great career opportunities that exist in the field. Obviously Lebanon and Laclede County are super blessed with a great core of manufacturers. Trust me when I tell you that communities around this country would love to have the manufacturing presence that we have in our community and county.

During his presentation to the MEDC conference attendees, Tom addressed some of the successes he has seen as a participant. Students from Lebanon Technology and Career Center came over during a morning and afternoon session. The best part is that these students asked to attend and had direct interest in learning more about what DTE has to potentially offer them from a job or career standpoint.

Two of the biggest takeaways from the fact that DTE participates in the National Manufacturers’ Day by providing tours of its facilities were the hiring of individuals who attended and the post-event interest shown by youth. I think this is awesome, knowing that the tour that might not otherwise have happened helped lead potential employees to DTE.

One of the things we hope to do a better job of in 2016 and beyond is connect our local industries to those who might not be aware of them. And events like National Manufacturers’ Day, the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issue Breakfasts, just to name a couple, certainly go a long way to help in the promotion of what Lebanon and Laclede County Manufacturers’ have to offer.

Another event forthcoming that will allow us to showcase one of area industries is the Tech44 “Bring on Breakfast” which will be hosted at Carmeco on Thursday, March 17. We will have further details as the event gets closer, but this will be one more way to truly learn about a Lebanon and Laclede County industry.

In closing, I want to take a moment to thank Tom Waters and DTE for participating in the MEDC Winter Conference. Following the presentation, I had many colleagues from throughout the state come up and commend the organization and brag on Lebanon. Trust me, that type of feedback always generates some pride in Lebanon and Laclede County and continues to make us proud to be a partner in the economic development process for our community and county.

Have a great weekend.

(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

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REDI Report – January 30, 2016

Local economic indicators show movement in the right direction

How about this brief turn in our January weather? And no, that is no complaint. I will take it. I hope everyone has a chance to get out and enjoy what this weekend brings. I’m not too confident that it will last beyond a few days, but I will take whatever we can get.

I am thrilled to report that some final unemployment numbers came in for Lebanon and Laclede County during the past week. The December 2015 unemployment rate for the county showed us at 6 percent. This was the best December we have had on this front since all the way back in 2006. We had our largest labor force for the final year of the month since 2008 as well.

With these final figures we are also able to calculate how we stood for a full year. Our average annual unemployment rate for 2015 was 6.7 percent. That is 1.4 percent better than we were in 2014 and our best annual average since 2007. We had our largest annual average labor force since 2009. The bottom line to this information is that things definitely moved in the right direction during the past 12 months and I am confident that the trend will continue into 2016 and beyond.

We should all be grateful to our local employers for investing in themselves and in our workforce. And likewise it is the workforce that helped make these investments possible.

The City of Lebanon and Laclede County are now participating in a regional housing study in conjunction with Camden, Miller and Morgan Counties. Along with those three counties, we together make up the footprint of Lake of the Ozarks Council of Local Governments. Lebanon and Laclede County are well represented on this organization with three seats currently occupied by Presiding Commissioner Danny Rhoades, Lebanon Area Chamber Executive Director Darrell Pollock and Lebanon City Council Ward 4 Representative Chuck Jordan. The Lake of the Ozarks (COG) is a strong partner in helping our community and county with grant applications, administration and other community and economic development programs.

The forthcoming housing study will really help us as a community and county discover what our challenges are when it comes to available and affordable housing. We’ll also determine what opportunities exist as well as where they are in our area and region. And, most importantly, the study will help us develop programs to address the challenges and maximize our opportunities. Anytime you can truly assess where you are, where you want to go and learn ways to get there by examining the successes or even failures of other communities, I think this is nothing but a good thing.

Have a great weekend all and enjoy this spring . . . or I mean winter weather!

(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

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REDI Report – January 9, 2016

Excited for economy’s ’16 prospects

A new year has arrived and I am very excited about what 2016 holds in store for Lebanon and Laclede County. Several projects that were in the planning phases during 2015 will most likely come to life this year and they will all provide benefits to our community and county.

We had some solid news to report on the job front as 2015 final figures came in. While our unemployment rate was slightly up for the month of November 2015, coming in a 6.1 percent, there was a silver lining to this news. Our labor force continues to grow and this was our best overall November since 2007. The last two or three months of our year typically result in higher unemployment as some of the more seasonal employers in our area make arrangements for the coming year. I am hopeful we will see our unemployment rate start to dip lower again in the early months of this year and the good momentum we had in 2015 will carry into the next 12 months.

Social media has certainly become a very powerful marketing tool over the last several years. While there are plusses and minuses to some of the content that appears on websites such as Facebook, we cannot overlook the impact social media outlets can bring to businesses and organizations looking to get the word out about their products and services. I would, however, encourage business owners to make social media one “part” of your marketing strategy and not the full plan.

Lebanon-REDI added a Facebook page this past year and it has certainly been a learning curve as to what content will be the most viewed and, more important, most valued.

Recently, we have started a trend of featuring some of the available job openings in our community and county. During the last few weeks, we were able to post about a job fair for Emerson Climate Technologies and employment opportunities at Lowe Boats. Both these posts received heavy traffic, which is of course the end goal – to connect job seekers with available positions in Lebanon and Laclede County.

The Missouri Career Center is a great partner in the process and you can always visit their website to learn more about what jobs are open right now in our community and county. The direct address is There is also a link to the Missouri Career Center job search page on the main page of the Lebanon-REDI website at

Seeing the success of the recent posts, we will continue to provide regular listings of available jobs from our local employers on our Facebook page. If you haven’t done so already, please go and like it at We are getting close to 100 likes!

Have a great weekend everyone!

(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

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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

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REDI Report – December 12, 2015

Local people help each other out in many ways

The passion that people living in Lebanon and Laclede County have for our community and county continues to amaze and inspire me. This past week, I was blessed to attend several meetings or events where such passion was on full display. And a caring nature for our community and county will always give us a fighting chance in making our economy the best it can be as we compete globally against other areas for growth opportunities.

The Lebanon Area Foundation’s Community Cares Celebration luncheon held Wednesday was a true showcase that we have organizations, businesses and individuals dedicated to the betterment of our community. Thirty-four agencies that serve local causes were awarded a grand total of $90,000 in grant funds, all made possible by the donations of our friends and neighbors right here in Lebanon and Laclede County. This investment will pay dividends in our community and county as all agencies awarded funding amounts serve important needs locally. One of the extra added highlights of the luncheon was the performance of Christmas songs by employees of Laclede Industries. These are some wonderful individuals who have found meaningful work as a result of our area having an entity like Laclede Industries to help them. And other businesses and industries in the area benefit from the entity as well. The employees who sang did a great job and the smiles on their faces were priceless.

On Thursday, business students from Lebanon High School and Lebanon Technology and Career Center hosted a chili supper. Now this was not just the ordinary chili supper. This event was organized to both help the students get hands-on experience in event planning and to support a great local cause – Project360 Youth Services. This just shows that we have youth in our community and county that care about their fellow students. And that is another aspect of our area that makes us stand out and always gives us an edge against competition.

When a decision is made by a business or industry as it relates to a relocation or expansion, there are so many factors at play. Location as we know is so important as well as available properties, sites, etc. Quality of life is becoming more and more of a factor in these discussions. Business owners want to know that they will have a pool of employees that are concerned about the health and welfare of the communities they live in. We are very blessed to have a community that is definitely concerned and considerate of the well-being of everyone. And that again is an extra advantage we have over other places around the globe.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the unusual (in a good way) temperatures over the next couple of days!

(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

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REDI Report – November 28, 2015

Lots of positive trends locally to be thankful for

Although I think we should always be thankful and count our blessings every day, certainly this time of year brings those thoughts to the forefront. I’m certainly thankful for the blessing of discovering Lebanon as my new home both personally and professionally during the past nine months. It is certainly wonderful to work in a community and county full of amazing people who truly care about where they live and who likewise care about their neighbors.

Sometimes it is easy to focus on what we “don’t have” and neglect to remember what we do. I hope the holiday season allows us all to stop and think for a minute about what makes Lebanon and Laclede County great.

More good news came our way this past week with the release of job numbers for the month of October 2015. The trend of declining unemployment rates continued as Laclede County had an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent last month. This was the best overall October percentage since 2007 and also the first time our unemployment rate has dropped below six percent since May 2008. I am very thankful for the communities of Laclede County for making this possible from the employers who have continued to hire or shorten down times and the employees who continue to work hard to provide for their families.

Another positive trend from the October 2015 job statistics is the fact that we are adding to our labor force. When promoting Lebanon and Laclede County as viable options to locate, relocate or expand a business, these numbers are very important. So thank you for the part you have played in this process, as again I’ll say “everyone is a part of the economic development effort in our community and county.”

To that point, I want to mention how critical it is to remember how effective our words can be. I think we all get into routines in our day-to-day lives. I most certainly do. My day typically starts by visiting a local convenience store and buying a cup of coffee. It is my initial caffeine fix for the day as I start with sugar, add the coffee and then mix in some French vanilla creamer. The particular store that I visit has some very friendly staff members. I’m greeted with “good morning” as soon as I enter the business. Usually one or more of the employees will carry on a brief conversation. We often don’t think about how effective it is, but I have found that I actually look forward to my coffee stop as it helps begin the day on a positive note.

You never truly know who you might interact with on a daily basis. Those employees are showcasing that Lebanon truly is a friendly place. Imagine a company’s president or chief executive walking into a store and being treated poorly. That lone interaction could shape his opinion of a community and the area might never recover. Who knows how many jobs or opportunities could be lost as a result of such an occurrence. So here is another example of everyone playing a part in the economic development process, especially frontline employees at local establishments. They are often the “first impression” an outsider will get from a community. And we should all want that to be the absolute best first impression that we can give.

In closing, I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend. Please be safe during the holiday season and I urge everyone to buy local as often as you can to help Lebanon and Laclede County businesses continue to grow.

(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

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