Lebanon-REDI President named to regional economic development effort

Brian Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Lebanon Regional Economic Development, Inc. (Lebanon-REDI), has been named to the board of directors for Tech44, a high-tech organization along the Interstate-44 corridor working together to fully leverage all available resources to build local, regional and state economies.

The Tech44 Ideas Highway initiative seeks to create business opportunities by leveraging the region’s collective resources while respecting the unique assets of each individual community.

“Historically, communities have evolved and grown around their own individual resources,” said Lonna Sowers, Tech44 executive director. “They have taken pride in their autonomy, embraced opportunities to nurture their own economies, and competed with one another for business. But, functioning independently may not always be the best economic strategy.

“Today’s business arena is vastly more complicated, bringing with it a need to rely on local and regional partnership strengths,” she added. “We are honored to welcome Brian to our board and our regional effort. He will be a great asset to us and for Lebanon and Laclede County as he represents them on a regional platform.”

“I am honored to be chosen for a board position with Tech44,” said Thompson. “This is a great chance to put Lebanon and Laclede County directly at the table when opportunities arise regionally. First and foremost, this is going to be a great way to connect businesses along the I-44 corridor and we want to make sure Lebanon and Laclede County businesses are directly able to benefit when the chance presents itself.”

Other board members of Tech44 are: Chairman Doyle Edwards, Brewer Science, Inc.; Vice Chairman Jim Alexander, St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce; Secretary Rob O’Brian, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce; Treasurer Allen Kunkel, Jordan Valley Innovation Center – Missouri State University; Cyndra Lorey, Rolla Regional Economic Commission; Joe Bannister, JGB Advisors, LLC; Dusty Cruise, Missouri Enterprise; Jim Curran, Electrical Connection; Bill Hinderer, Tacony Corporation; Ben Jones, City Utilities of Springfield; and Keith Strassner, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

For more information on Tech44, visit www.Tech44.org or contact Sowers at 573-578-4533 or director@tech44.org.

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OTC supports Lebanon-REDI


Lebanon Regional Economic Development, Inc. (Lebanon-REDI) recognized Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) during a check presentation ceremony recently. OTC contributed $3,000 to Lebanon-REDI earlier this year. Pictured are, from left, OTC Lebanon Education Center Director Dusty Childress, Lebanon-REDI President/CEO Brian Thompson and Lebanon-REDI Board of Directors Vice Chairman Marc Roecker. “Education ties in directly with economic development,” said Childress. “We definitely want to contribute to the local efforts of REDI and appreciate their partnership through the years.”

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REDI Report – July 25, 2015

Jobless rate holds steady as more join the workforce

Laclede County received some more good news this week with the release of our June 2015 unemployment rate. For June, our rate remained at 6.5 percent for the third straight month. This was also the best June in seven years, dating back to June 2008’s unemployment rate of 6.3 percent. Our continued improving number is also backed by the fact that we added more people to our labor force and put most of the newly available workers into jobs.

Again, this is a good trend that everyone in Lebanon and Laclede County should take pride in. Everyone in some way played a part in this positive result. Employers continue to add jobs. Employees continue to improve their standing by furthering their education through traditional means (GED or college) or by enhancing their own personal marketability through the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). Every citizen who spends money at our local grocery stores or other retail outlets contributes to those respective businesses allowing them to remain viable and in some cases grow (some even added new jobs). So as you can tell, it is certainly a domino effect of a lot good people doing a lot of good things paying off for our local economy.

Two upcoming events are prime examples of people within our region, community and county doing their part to enhance our economy. The first is a job fair that is being sponsored by U. S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler. This event will take place on Thursday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cowan Civic Center. The job fair will be a duel opportunity for employers and potential employees alike as the two sides will have the chance to learn more about what each has to offer. I encourage our local businesses and industries to sign up and participate in this job fair. I also hope that those in need of employment will take this opportunity to visit with area employers during the 5-hour time span of the event. For more information on the Aug. 13 job fair, visit https://hartzler.house.gov/events or contact Shaelyn McClanahan at 202-577-3724 or by e-mail at shaelyn.mcclanahan@mail.house.gov. I am also happy to provide any interested businesses with the registration form for the event if they prefer.

One month later, our friends at the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce and the Local Makes Sense committee will host their annual “Business Expo and Fun Day” on Saturday, Sept. 19. I am really looking forward to this one as I have heard wonderful things about its success over the past few years. The expo and fun day attracts in excess of 4,000 attendees to see what Lebanon and Laclede County have to offer. And of that great number, many come from outside the city and county!

I don’t want to spill too many of the details just yet, but based on some of the conversations I’ve been a part of with the chamber and Local Makes Sense committee, some additions to this year’s event should make it one of the best ever! Participation is free with your paid membership with the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce. That alone is a tremendous value for your chamber membership not withstanding all the other great things the local chamber does for its members and area businesses. Be sure to contact the Chamber to secure your space and for more information. You can do so by calling 417-588-3256 or emailing chamber@lebanonmissouri.com.

I want to once again recognize U. S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and her staff for putting together their upcoming job fair and also the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce and Local Makes Sense committee for their business expo. These are just two more ways that area entities and individuals will help us continue to move Lebanon and Laclede County forward.

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 brian@lebanonredi.com)

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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.

Don’t forget to visit our new Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LebanonREDI. We have regular updates on items of interest throughout the week. Please “like” it and feel free to send us a message there or through our traditional means.

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)

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REDI Report – June 27, 2015

Best assets to market are local people

We continued to receive some promising news in recent days as our May 2015 unemployment rate was released. Last month, Laclede County recorded an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent. This was up slightly from our April figure of 6.5 percent, but we continue to be way ahead of where we were one year ago when our May 2014 unemployment rate was 8 percent. This was also the best overall unemployment rate during the month of May that we have had since 2008.

A few things are going on here. First, we are growing our overall labor force as students graduate and move into the work place or others commute to us. We are also putting more people to work than in recent years.

This is something we need to be proud of. The recession was tough on the nation as a whole. Lebanon and Laclede County were certainly not immune from that struggle. However, we are starting to see some nice signs of recovery and this is attributed to so many people working hard to turn things around. Our workforce survived and continued to find ways to improve itself through training and education. Our employers continued to invest in our community and county even when times were at their most difficult. Our educational system continued to work hard to find ways to help provide the best quality education for our youth so they were ready for the job market or their college careers. It literally takes everyone playing some role at some point in time to help us survive the tough times and thrive in better times.

When you think of assets that we are able to market to those looking to locate either their businesses or families here, or in some cases both, we must take a look at the core of this – our people. And earlier this week I was reminded of how blessed Lebanon and Laclede County are to have very civic minded people. It was the annual change in Lebanon Rotary President and outgoing President Joe Knapp took a look back on his year in office. He showed us a slideshow of the people who had worked hard as Rotarians to make a difference in our community. It was a great visual reminder of just what we have here in Lebanon that other communities don’t necessarily have – many dedicated people working for the greater good of our area. And Rotary is just one example of many civic and faith-based organizations in Lebanon and Laclede County that are doing wonderful things in our region.

So when you see good news items like our improving job situation, it is nice to think about how so many people and so many things happen that help bring us to where we are. Thank you for being a part of this community. Your contributions do not go unrecognized.

In closing, I want to invite those of you who have a Facebook page to like the new Lebanon-REDI Facebook page. One of our goals this year has been to provide better communication to the public. This Facebook page is another step in that effort. You can directly access it at www.Facebook.com/LebanonREDI.

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 brian@lebanonredi.com)

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REDI Report – June 13, 2015

Nice to have good healthcare facilities

I want to take this opportunity as part of the REDI Report to welcome David Steinmann and his family to the City of Lebanon and Laclede County. David was recently named as the new administrator for Mercy Hospital and brings many years of quality experience in the healthcare field to our community and county.

I had the chance to meet with him at a community-wide reception and to visit one-on-one in the past several days. You can easily see that he is committed to the excellence that Mercy Hospital has provided for our area for many, many years. In addition, he and his family are going to be key assets to our community as they are already accepting roles of service in local civic organizations. David, again I am proud to welcome you and your family to Lebanon and Laclede County. I know that you will find it to be a rewarding professional and personal move, as I already have since coming to the area.

When we talk about the assets that help develop the product we market from an economic development standpoint, having access to quality healthcare is very important. And with entities such as Mercy Hospital to serve our area, we are very blessed in Lebanon and Laclede County. I had the opportunity to take a full tour of the hospital’s facilities last week and was completely blown away by what we have right here in our own backyard.

So, taking information from my tour and a ‘quick facts’ sheet that I was given, I want to provide you this week with somewhat of a “Did You Know?” about our local hospital system.

The Mercy Hospital system is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the United States, serving more than three million people annually nationwide. The system includes 33 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, two rehab hospitals and one orthopedic hospital, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, and more than 2,100 Mercy Clinic physicians in the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. In 1997, Breech Regional Medical Center locally joined the Mercy system and the new hospital at 100 Hospital Drive in Lebanon opened in 1999. Just seven years ago, in 2008, the Curry Cancer Center opened on the Mercy Lebanon campus, offering cancer treatment close to home. During that same year, an expanded medical/surgical unit and emergency room were opened.

The Mercy Lebanon campus includes a pharmacy, fitness center, the cancer center, emergency medical services, physicians, home health and hospice and medical supply. We have 62 acute licensed beds. In fiscal year 2013, more than 5,500 surgeries were completed (inpatient and outpatient) at our hospital here. The emergency room was visited more than 28,000 times that year and, one of the neat statistics that I learned, we had nearly 350 babies born right here in Lebanon at the Mercy campus. That’s nearly a newborn every day!

I know I have just written a lot of numbers and information, but I hope this goes to remind us all of the healthcare assets we have right here in our home community and county. Trust me when I say that other places across the country aren’t necessarily as blessed. A hospital system in the city of West Memphis, Ark. recently closed leaving more than 40,000 people within the general area without adequate healthcare services. While local leaders are working hard to restore such services, can you imagine the gap that has been left there even if the issue is an interim one? Many other communities, as large as ours and some smaller, are fighting daily to keep their healthcare facilities financially operating. That is one struggle that we in Lebanon and Laclede County are not having.

Those looking to locate here can rest assured that management and employees will have access, quickly, to good local healthcare. And with firms like Mercy here, we have a definite advantage.

Thank you all for reading and 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 brian@lebanonredi.com)

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REDI Report – May 30, 2015

Focus on promoting existing jobs

I want to begin this edition of my column by thanking the Lebanon City Council for the opportunity to visit with them over the past few weeks and to provide a brief report at their last meeting Monday night. Good communication with our local leadership is key to having a successful economic development strategy that includes input from everyone throughout our community and county.

One area of improvement that has been mentioned by council members as I have visited with them is the need for better promotion of the jobs that we do have available in our community and county. One way that Lebanon-REDI is working on this challenge is with our new “REDI Job Bank” that is located at our website, www.LebanonREDI.com. The link can be found in the right hand corner of our homepage.

The “REDI Job Bank” will include direct links to search engines from the Missouri Career Center website and from the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce’s job search page. These are two great places that local job seekers may look to see what jobs are available locally. Both the Missouri Career Center and Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce do a great job in providing these services and I simply hope that Lebanon-REDI is able to enhance their offerings.

We also want to make local companies aware that we are willing to provide direct information on the REDI Job Bank link as well if they wish to have their jobs directly included. Please contact our staff at any time and we will include your information as part of this page.

In our most recent update earlier this week, it was discovered that more than 200 jobs within the “65536” zip code are listed from the Missouri Career Center’s website. In addition, I’m sure many of you have noticed the “Hiring Now” signs at businesses throughout the community and county. Lebanon-REDI wants to help promote these openings to help job seekers locally connect with employers.

We want to be a partner in the fight against the misconception we often hear that “there are no jobs here.” With that said, it will require an active role in promoting what IS available here in the job market. “REDI Job Bank” links are just the start.

In closing this week, I want to reflect on last week’s celebration of Memorial Day and thank all the men and women who sacrificed so that we may live in a country with the opportunity to express ourselves through means such as editorial columns. We sometimes forget that some people in the world don’t have such simple luxuries and ours are made possible by those who have given their lives in some cases to protect such freedoms.

(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)

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REDI Report – May 16, 2015

A time to reflect

Sometimes we get so caught up in how fast life moves that we don’t take time to simply take a breath and reflect on important moments. I certainly hope that each and every Lebanon High School graduate who walked across the stage Friday night at the Cowan Civic Center was able to reflect on his or her life and celebrate all the hard work and to remember all of those who provided support along the road to Friday night’s “big moment.” And I hope the friends and families of each graduate were able to do the same.

Our community and county are certainly blessed with great educators and those who support our youth in realizing their dreams. And when it comes to promoting Lebanon and Laclede County, educational achievement is a big key to selling this community as a potential great place to do business or continue doing business.

One of the great education and workforce-related programs that Lebanon Regional Economic Development (Lebanon-REDI) is proud to support is the ACT Work Ready Communities program. Laclede is one of 52 Missouri counties participating in this program which helps both the members of our workforce be better prepared for jobs we have locally and helps our employers have access to workers who are ready for the jobs offered in our community. Our long-term goal is to become a certified “ACT Work Ready Community,” which will give our community and county better visibility to attract and retain jobs.

An important partner in this process is the Lebanon Technology and Career Center (LTCC) at Lebanon High School. LTCC Director Keith Davis and his staff work very hard to help our youth determine what career paths they should take. They also give the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) examinations to junior and senior students who wish to take the test. Lebanon-REDI is glad to provide an annual contribution that helps keep LTCC as a testing location for this program.

To successfully complete the NCRC, examinees must take tests in three key areas – applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. These exams really challenge the test takers’ skill in all three areas as they relate to the needs of our local work place. Once successfully completed, this shows that the person who did well on the test is truly ready to move into the work place and is very likely to be a good employee to his or her employer.

This year we had 94 students complete the exam successfully. I hope each student who completed the exam takes pride in that fact that he or she has some of the core skills needed to do well in our workforce. And I likewise hope our employers will take notice when they learn that a potential applicant has completed the exam.

Future businesses and industries want to know what we are doing on a regular basis to help our workforce be ready for the jobs of tomorrow. Participating in the ACT Work Ready Communities program is just one of the ways Lebanon and Laclede County are working hard to stay on top of this challenge.

In addition to LTCC, I want to thank the more than 20 businesses locally who are helping us try to reach “Work Ready Community” status by recognizing the NCRC certificate. It takes all of us working together to make good things happen.

In closing, graduates congratulations on your hard work. Take this weekend to reflect and thank your friends, families, teachers and anyone who played a part along the journey.

(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)


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