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Mid-Missouri should develop industrial friendly zones

Thursday, January 1, 2009 | 2:00 p.m. CST; updated 10:30 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A really happy New Year for the middle of Middle America shoppers.

The Columbia Mall is not closing. Despite Columbia’s own “Rumor Control Central,” it is not the mall that is in financial trouble, it is the parent company, General Growth Properties Inc. headquartered in Chicago, which is having the problems. Our mall is making money.

As the second largest owner of retail malls in the United States, General Growth Properties is feeling the effects of the fiscal crisis. The company's Las Vegas properties are on the selling block. There is money owed and loans due. But mid-Missouri will retain its one and only major covered shopping extravaganza.

I started to hear the rumors in October when colleagues, friends and customers asked when the mall would be closing. Because I worked at MC Sports (my last day was Saturday ), I am supposed to know these things. I did not, so I dug. Speaking to Janet Henderson, the general manager of the Columbia Mall, I was assured that the keystone of the City of Columbia’s revenue is viable and will remain.

“There is no truth to those statements,” she told me . “Regardless of what happens, the mall will continue to function.”

I certainly hope so, not only for the city’s sake, but for the state of Missouri. Five of General Growth Properties’ more than 200 properties are located in Missouri; the Columbia Mall, Capital Mall in Jefferson City, Northwest Plaza in St. Ann, Branson Landing in Branson and the Galleria in St. Louis. Four of the five are doing quite well and the fifth is not doing that bad.

The problem with rumors is that they achieve a life of their own. Rumors and stories grow exponentially as they move from ear to ear. Like playing the game “Telephone” where a “secret” is whispered to one person and then another and another through a circle. The story takes on the embellishments and justifications of each person along the way. Take, for example, Dick’s Sporting Goods delayed and long anticipated opening.

The rumor was that Dick’s would not open because of the economy. Now people from Dick’s did not return my telephone calls, but there appears bad information here too. I talked to John Sudduth, building regulations supervisor for Columbia’s Protective Inspection Division. The answer for the delay is simple. It is not construction problems or apparent financial difficulties. Dick’s general contractor has not filed for the final inspection. That’s it. The finishes on a newly built store appears to be the only reason for the delay in opening.

However, life has not been that good for too many Boone County residences. There have been layoffs and “down sizing” – I hate weasel words for being fired. The good news is that Columbia and Boone County are somewhat isolated from the big city economic woes. Even the locally owned banks seem to be escaping the financial devastation.

There is one thing that is not a rumor – Columbia is not a manufacturing friendly town. Columbia likes white collar jobs, not blue-collar ones. We don’t even hire locally for construction or consulting. More than one business owner has told me without qualms, that Columbia may not be able to survive unless there is an infrastructure immediately to support new non-retail and service industries.

Here is a New Year’s resolution for Columbia, Ashland and Boone County elected officials: Cooperate.

Purchase the land between the Columbia Regional Airport and U.S. 63 and develop it as an “industrial friendly zone.” Columbia and Boone County have advantages over many other municipalities: major highway connections north and south/east and west; an airport with on-time and reliable service from a major carrier; universities and colleges in Boone and surrounding counties, a small town environment within reach of major metropolitan areas and; a workforce that is stable, reliable and available.

No more rumors! Let’s start 2009 with a real vision to increase our economic base with something other than retail, finances, education and health care. If Mexico Mo., can do it, so can Columbia.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.

 

 


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Comments

Ayn Rand January 1, 2009 | 5:00 p.m.

"More than one business owner has told me without qualms, that Columbia may not be able to survive unless there is an infrastructure immediately to support new non-retail and service industries."

I laughed out loud when I read this. Do you seriously believe that they seriously believe that Columbia will turn into a ghost town?

As for the industrial-friendly zone, we already have one along Route B. Anyone who complains that Columbia doesn't have a large, shovel-ready site with good infrastructure and highway access needs to drive up there. A prime example is the tract adjacent to Square D. You can't get much bigger and better than that. So what do these crybabies really want? Tax breaks and other incentives.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 1, 2009 | 6:30 p.m.

3M's location may be available soon as well if continued downsizing eventually closes that location.

Ther is also likely some available land off Lemone Industrial, especially after the bridge connecting the industrial park (Concorde I think?) to Stadium goes in.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 2:34 a.m.

No company wants to move into an area where the land prices are high and especially in a fading economy.

Besides didn't somebody post awhile back that we might not have enough power to be beneficial to some of these new companies?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 2, 2009 | 4:26 a.m.

Chuck ax'd:

>>>Besides didn't somebody post awhile back that we might not have enough power to be beneficial to some of these new companies?<<<

We have enough for now. Columbia Water and Light only generates about 7% of the electricity we use. The rest is purchased from other power companies in the state.

Our issue is we (and some of the other companies) have to upgrade the local and regional grids. Since Columbia is not interested in upgrading its local power generation, our future supply will depend more and more on power that we import over an increasingly strained interconnection grid. It is likely that our electrical supply will be more prone to interruption as we move into the next decade.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 2, 2009 | 7:15 a.m.

I agree that future power generation, and how and where the generated power is routed, needs to be a serious matter when considering future growth patterns and opportunities.

Power is something that all entities - commercial, manufacturing, residential, educational, hospitals and clinics - cannot operate without.

Columbia has, rightly or wrongly, gained a reputation for not being a manufacturing friendly city. That isn't going to be helpful if the object is now going to be to attract new manufacturing operations. "Live by the sword (education, health care), die by the sword."

(Report Comment)
David Rosman January 6, 2009 | 9:27 a.m.

Ayn - I am glad that I am occasionally vindicated by others who read my fits and rants. One reason there is room on Route B is because everyone else moved out and no-one else wants to build! Mexico's industrial zones are successful even in this financially challenged era.

Not a ghost town as much as one that is dying from a lack (or a fear) of blue-collar growth and the misguided belief that people will move here because Columbia has colleges and a university, a few hospitals and three Wal-marts. Roads, railroads, power supply, water and sewage, and the list goes on, are too old, too small or too scarce. And the county is as much behind the curve as the Columbia is.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 6, 2009 | 10:03 a.m.

>>> Roads, railroads, power supply, water and sewage, and the list goes on, are too old, too small or too scarce. And the county is as much behind the curve as the Columbia is. <<<

Thank you for pointing out this obvious fact alot do not want to admit!

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 6, 2009 | 11:39 a.m.

"One reason there is room on Route B is because everyone else moved out and no-one else wants to build!"

If that were the case -- and it isn't -- that would mean even more shovel-ready land than what's already there. Have you actually driven up there lately? That area also has a rail access and a four-lane road. Clearly land and infrastructure are not the problems.

"Not a ghost town as much as one that is dying from a lack (or a fear) of blue-collar growth and the misguided belief that people will move here because Columbia has colleges and a university, a few hospitals and three Wal-marts. "

But people have been moving here -- and still are. Columbia's population in 1990 was 69,101. In 2000, it was 84,531. Today it's more than 94,000. Columbia clearly is having no difficulty attracting and retaining residents. This town is far from dying.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 6, 2009 | 12:21 p.m.

What real electronic or light industrial companies do we really have here that employ thousands of people? There is not very much at all nor by the looks of it will be.

If the railroad is such a good thing on Route B how come it is hardly used but to bring in coal to the power plant and to drop off the occasional thing here or there.If all of that property along Route B is so worthy how come it is not exploding out of it's boundries?

That area has hardly changed at all since I have moved here so I do not know just where you see any new development besides a gas station,some storage place and a farm equipment sales company. Oh cannot forget the new State Maintenance Yard too.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 6, 2009 | 12:40 p.m.

Chuck, that's part of my point: There hasn't been much industrial development along that stretch of Route B since, I think, Quaker Oats. Yet there's plenty of shovel-ready land, a four-lane road that leads to 63 and then a short hop to 70, and rail access. So it's not as if a lack of land and poor infrastructure are holding back development in that area.

And speaking of Route B, be careful what you wish for. Many of the light industrial plants that moved in there in the '80s and '90s went out of business or laid off for a variety of reasons, including jobs going overseas. So don't assume that if we throw a lot of incentives at a company and it comes here, it will stay here. (That's what claw-back provisions are for.)

Columbia shouldn't be courting companies that could open a plant that would employe thousands of people each. For one, our labor force is too small and our unemployment too low to attract them. For another, the vast majority of workers in Columbia and the rest of the country don't work for large companies, but rather small and medium enterprises, such as Environmental Dynamics ( www.columbiabusinesstimes.com/2938/2008/... ).

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 6, 2009 | 1:30 p.m.

Well I do not see any major companies wanting to move here anytime soon unless that want to take over and monopolize the building of bike trails,parks,fire stations and painting PedNut symbols around town.

Oh never mind we already have one of those types called the City of Columbia.

Never mind carry on..............................

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 6, 2009 | 1:48 p.m.

Chuck, companies know that most cities are willing to play the incentives game. So unless we're willing to bend over, too, we should focus on other options for creating jobs. I'd rather see us create an environment that enables local entrepreneurs to start the next Environmental Dynamics because they're less likely to leave for a sweetheart deal in another community.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 6, 2009 | 1:54 p.m.

This city is obviously not willing to bend over or we would not be at the point we are at now would we?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 6, 2009 | 2:07 p.m.

The point we're at isn't a bad place to be. Our unemployment is still low compared to the state and the country. We haven't paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives per new job that might never be recouped. Our economy isn't tied to a single employer. (Sure, MU might lay off a lot of people. But it isn't an auto or aircraft plant that will close completely.) We have a lot of white collar jobs, which are less easily exported than manufacturing jobs. There are opportunities out there for those with skills and initiative, as well as for those willing to take an entry-level position and work their way up.

(Report Comment)

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