Recognizing the need for a more aggressive and collaborative approach to economic development in the region, on May 11, 2016, regional leaders officially established an investor-based, 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, known as the Monroe County IL Economic Development Corporation (MCILEDC) This decision marked a new era of collaboration within the region by aligning efforts of public and private leaders to move the economy forward.
The purpose of the MCILEDC is to encourage, promote, aid, and assist economic development in the region. Its Board is made up of business and government leaders dedicated to growing a more diversified local economy, a broader tax base, and an enhanced quality of life for the region.
Today the MCILEDC provides a broader range of services than most agencies of its kind, boosting innovation and entrepreneurship; attracting, retaining, and helping companies grow; increasing the region’s international reach; and revitalizing municipalities, unincorporated areas throughout its service area.
MCILEDC embodies a new model of how its service area approaches business, job growth, and competitiveness for the future. We help business stay and grow here, support issues that enhance our region’s economic competitiveness, and lead initiatives to attract new investment and new companies to the region.
This strategic plan provides direction for the MCILEDC’s service area, Monroe County and other opportunity areas in Randolph and St. Clair counties. It provides the Corporation with vision, guiding strategic goals, supporting tactical directives, and measurements of performance and success. The plan will be reviewed and updated as needed every five years.
The plan will be used to assist MCILEDC to create jobs, economic opportunities, and stable communities for our residents. The plan will focus on several strategic areas to improve our economy and create opportunity.
The mission of the Monroe County Illinois Economic Development Corporation is to support the retention and expansion of current businesses; recruit prospective new businesses; support entrepreneurs, start-up enterprises, and emerging firms; promote employment opportunities and the stability of employment; and assist local government in managing growth for the benefit of present and future generations.
To be recognized as the “Essential Connection” for expanding economic development in Monroe County Illinois and other opportunity areas in Randolph and St. Clair counties.
The region possesses many assets that are desirable for economic growth and quality of life. The MCIEDC service area is comprised of the Monroe County municipalities of Columbia, Hecker, Maeystown, Waterloo, and Valmeyer, along with the neighboring St. Clair County municipality of Dupo. As part of the St. Louis MSA, the northern part of the service area is on the I-255 interstate system with direct access to downtown St. Louis 11 miles to the north, and heavily developed and populated communities of south St. Louis County, 5 miles to the west.
On the west, the service area is bordered by 38 miles of commercially navigable and un-impounded middle Mississippi River flanked by an urban-protected levee north of I-255 and an agricultural levee south of I-255. The area is partially bordered on the east by the lower Kaskaskia River, which is channelized and impounded by a lock and dam for commercial navigation. The multi-modal capabilities provided by Union Pacific add to the transportation assets of the region. The service area also features a roadway system with access to I-255 and I-64, along with Highways IL-3, IL 156, and IL-159.
Land use zoning is established and managed through comprehensive growth plans maintained by local governments in the area. These plans serve as guides for appropriate development and/or protections for unincorporated and incorporated lands and waters. The MCILEDC uses these plans to guide development proposals to ensure compliant and compatible growth.
According to a 2012 Survey of Business Owners by the US Census Bureau, the total number businesses in the MCILEDC service area is 3,015.
Demographics Conditions. Up through 2015, the relatively significant population growth of our service area over the last 25 years (30 % increase), coupled with the high quality of life and proximity to the St. Louis metropolitan area, has generated increased residential development, schools, roads, utilities, and retail business services to conveniently support that growth.
- Population structure. Approximately 77% of the service area’s population is 18 years of age and older, with the largest age range being 45-54 (17%). Population has grown from 31,554 people in 2000 to an estimated 37,545 in 2015 representing a growth rate of 16 %. Unfortunately, growth in the St. Louis region remains stagnant.
- Educational attainment. Approximately 65% of the population in our service area has a high school education or higher, with almost 18% of those possessing bachelor’s degrees or higher. All secondary school systems in the region are highly rated and provide excellent college and trade school preparation with high graduation rates. The Region is within commuting distance to several colleges, universities, and trade schools.
- Income. The mean household income of the service area is $80,023, while persons in poverty, region-wide is 6%. The Monroe County portion of our service area ranks second in standard of living and median household income in the St. Louis metro area and seventh in the State of Illinois.
Economic Conditions. These economic conditions must be taken into consideration for the MCILEDC service area.
- Employment. The Area attracts and retains a highly stable population of skilled, professional workers which contributes to high productivity employment services in the metropolitan region. Although the region’s unemployment rate is low, the MCILEDC assures a steady flow of qualified workers from the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.
- Commuting patterns. Approximately 60% of the work force is employed outside the region with a mean travel time of less than 30 minutes to work.
- Local trends/Assets
- Low crime rates, low traffic congestion, quick fire response times and low ISO ratings, have led to a region featuring the safest municipalities in the state.
- Parks and trails and other quality of life issues have been prioritized.
- Excellent high band width broadband connection exists to over 95% of region with speeds up to 100Mbps or greater.
- Many areas have suitable lands potentially available for development, expansion, infill, or clustering for growth with supporting infrastructure provided nearby or at the site.
- Communities are business friendly and there are approximately 15,649 housing units region-wide. There are over 14,444 households with an average of 2.6 persons per household.
- The region is within proximity to St. Louis and other core metro population centers, with quick and convenient highway, railroad, river, and air transportation networks that facilitate continued growth. The region is only a
5-6 hour drive to Kansas City, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville.
- Growth Opportunities. Economic development niches that offer potential for diversified and desirable economic and employment growth opportunities include:
- Fiber connectivity, availability of land, semi-rural location, and access to workforce within a 20-minute radius enables our area to be ripe for data centers, back offices for financial/insurance companies, and small to medium sized tech firms whose executives are looking for a “main street” community setting.
- Relative low cost of living and commercial development offers an opportunity to grow and attract companies from within the St. Louis region and just outside of the region. The region should capitalize on retaining commuting workers in this area by attracting satellite offices supporting banks and downtown financial firms such as Wells Fargo and Stifel, who may be looking for a low-cost environment and a better work experience for their commuting population.
- The service area’s location near the river and Kaskaskia Port District should allow us to provide linkages and opportunities to drive support operations of specialized agricultural businesses and food processing.
- There are various sites in the area conducive to light Industrial, manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution, that could be developed and marketed such as Hanover Industrial Park, south and north unincorporated Waterloo, Westgate Drive Industrial Park in Columbia, Dupo Industrial Park, Rock City Business Complex in Valmeyer, and the I-255 Dupo-Columbia American Bottom area.
- Health care is also a niche worth pursuing with mature developments with growth potential in the Waterloo Hamacher area and 11 South in Columbia.
- Several downtown areas offer a “sense of place” that could be an advantage in offering opportunities to entice high tech office product and services.
- Other growth sectors are:
Entrepreneurship, incubation/innovation business development
Tourism – historic/heritage, nature based, and agricultural
Retail-shopping, hospitality, and personal services
Construction/ Engineering/Design contractors
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
To address these challenges and find ways to capitalize on the growth opportunity areas, the Corporation has developed specific strategies and objectives designed to achieve economic development goals paramount to its service area. These objectives are subject to change as they are accomplished, and/or new priorities and opportunities become feasible. In partnership with local governments and private sector leaders, the Economic Development Corporation is aggressively addressing, and strengthening existing efforts, in the following strategic focus areas.:
- Business Attraction.
- Business Retention and Expansion.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Quality of life.
STRATEGIC FOCUSES AND OBJECTIVES
Strategic Focus Area 1. Business Attraction.
MCILEDC will conduct an analytical and resource efficient program to attract new employers to the service area consistent with region values, interests, growth opportunities, and capabilities. This will be accomplished as follows.
Objective 1.1 Ensure relocation projects are effectively supported and managed.
Presenting a united front, and a seamless access to services and information, to business prospects, is key to a successful business attraction effort. Business prospects often believe bad handling of business attraction efforts is an indicator of a badly managed implementation.
- Lead, and function as the single point of contact on, service area responses to inquiries from business prospects and site consultants.
- Leverage MCILEDC members for testimonials that the region is a good place to do business. Will act as ambassadors for relocation prospects and connect employers to new businesses to identify buyer and supplier opportunities.
- Maintain an accurate inventory of available properties, sites, and buildings.
- Provide community profile info for the county and municipal investors.
- Conduct site selection preparedness meetings to help communities to be better positioned to attract businesses and to deal with inquiries.
Objective 1.2 Build a competitive portfolio of “deal-ready” sites.
The need for ample deal-ready infrastructure-served sites across the region continues to be a challenge that needs to be addressed if we are to be attractive to business investments.
- Leverage corridor planning and development strategies to identify and optimize development areas along IL-3 and IL-159.
- Assess “deal-ready” status of sites in regard to infrastructure and site characteristics.
- Those sites that are not deemed deal-ready, should be made that way, or at a minimum, well defined action steps defined on how to get there.
- Identify undeveloped land for future pre-development investment.
- Maintain and provide community profile info and facilitate a roundtable for communication.
- Promote and/or facilitate the location and establishment of one or more industrial parks in the service area.
- Support development of the I-255 Dupo-Columbia American Bottom area.
- Locate funding for deal-ready incentives that reduce perceived risk to business prospects and make sites more attractive such as: Feasibility studies, TIF studies, and Phase I Environmental Assessments.
- Work with farmers and others involved in value-added production of Agriculture products on projects and sites that could tap on the Agriculture economy.
Objective 1.3 Make our region more competitive
Business prospects will be looking for something a little extra to make their final selection. Developing a pro-development local culture and willingness to implement both state and local incentive tools to attract a company will be key to the region’s success. The MCILEDC plans to play a key “dealmaker” role in assembling the players and influencing local political and city officials to do all they can to support economic development. Specifically, MCILEDC will:
- Provide leadership in the development and use of pro-development strategic financing mechanisms for the attraction of new businesses, and the retention and expansion of existing businesses such as bond financing, enterprise zone benefits, tax increment financing (TIF), revolving loans, property tax abatements, discounted land, and business districts. This strategy becomes particularly important in light of the current status of state funds and its lacking incentive tools.
- Develop strong ties with local Southwest Illinois workNet group and their workforce development programs that are conducive to retaining and attracting businesses.
- Advocate for, and coordinate with prospective new businesses and relevant state, county, and municipal governments, to secure grants, loans, tax credits, and other incentives to assist in new development.
- Improve transportation connections between residential communities and work sites through cooperative efforts with the Monroe-Randolph Transit District and Bi-State Development Agency in St. Clair County.
Objective 1.4 Design, implement, an enhanced economic development marketing program.
MCILEDC must tell the exciting and compelling story of the region to help retain and encourage current employers to invest in our community and to attract new companies. To accomplish this goal, MCILEDC must develop and market a unifying theme that inspires the region and becomes a focal point for local economic development which can include the following:
- Evaluate existing regional business mix and conditions to define needs and priorities to target and diversify types of businesses, industries, and firms to recruit that can successfully spur growth and employment demand.
- Research the language and priorities of target industries and utilize it in the creation of marketing and PR materials.
- Market and coordinate for the attraction of new businesses in region through regional, national, and international industry organizations, publications, regional marketing brochures, postcards to site selectors.
- Ensure all principal social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) are fully leveraged and maintain frequent activity levels.
- Create business success stories to help promote the region as a place where businesses can succeed. Incorporate into economic development and communications programs, media engagements and outreach, and corporate, civic, and organizational events.
- Commission economic base study for the service area and a workforce skills/availability study to get a better definition of labor pool and advantages it offers with subsequent data being used to highlight our strong, but hidden workforce.
- Opportunities should be explored to work with area farmers and others involved in value-added production of Ag products.
- Ensure marketing includes reference to the area’s growing population statistics and explore endeavors that can keep that statistic moving upward.
- Devise a plan to mitigate the state’s political climate and fiscal situation when dealing with site selectors or locating businesses by providing access and answers direct from elected officials who can offer an attainable plan to improve the State’s fiscal situation.
Objective 1.5 Leverage and enhance external communications and networking activities.
- Nurture relationships with national site selection consultants to educate them about the strengths of the service area and assist them in finding the “right” location for their client companies.
- Do Familiarity Tours. Bring site selection consultants to the region to showcase available sites and buildings, introduce them to city staff and chamber members to help them envision a place within our community.
- Hold developer and broker forums to showcase the assets and opportunities of the region to those groups. Include presentations on ongoing, completed, and potential development projects, and implement a tour of key sites and buildings.
- Attend industry conferences, trade conventions, and events.
- Leverage additional assistance for the service area through collaborations with regional and state economic development organizations.
- Communicate and promote MCILEDC efforts to area stakeholders on a regular basis: Local business, civic organizations, local elected officials, EDO’s, county officials, media, and state officials.
- Promote the increase of area population to counter low growth rate of St. Louis region.
Objective 1.6 Work with and provide guidance to communities wishing to develop.
Communities savvy in development will ultimately help “win” the most projects. The Corporation sees the importance of a role and an engagement in that development process.
- Update and educate government boards on the actions of the MCILEDC.
- Meet regularly with and provide communities that invest in the MCILEDC with tools to promote and improve their communities.
- Create and maintain corridor maps highlighting available properties, key industry landmarks and traffic counts.
- Work with communities to entice local and region real estate developers with expertise in urban downtown settings to develop high tech office product.
- Monitor and analyze legislative activity with impact on county and municipalities.
Strategic Focus Area 2. Business Retention and Expansion
Existing businesses account for more than 80% of job growth in a region. MCILEDC realizes this and plans to implement retention strategies to enhance private sector investment and job growth. To that end, MCILEDC staff, Board, and partners will visit key businesses to identify expansion opportunities, threats to current and future employment, and business partnership possibilities. The following objectives are key to supporting existing businesses.
Objective 2.1 Maintain the MCILEDC as the “Essential Connection” for economic development expertise and assistance in the region.
- Maintain a state of the art website with quality information including programs and resources available to businesses.
- Reach out to all businesses in region to educate them on MCILEDC services.
- Participate in regional networks and organizations that share a congruent goal of business development and ensure an alliance is created and maintained.
- Get regular local press coverage on the actions and capabilities of MCILEDC.
- Create testimonials to better communicate services and accomplishments of MCILEDC.
Objective 2.2 Optimize a program to retain and expand existing employers.
- Build relationships with existing businesses operating in the region to support their continued viable operations, and facilitate their needs for improvements and expansion.
- Identify and maintain a current inventory of issues communicated by existing employers and work to resolve these issues through a formalized system.
- Assist local firms to find appropriate development sites for expansion.
- Involve other state and local partners as requested and strategically appropriate. Report progress of activity back to employers.
- Develop an awards program to recognize employers that make a significant positive impact in the region with presentations made at the Annual MCILEDC meeting.
- Encourage existing neighborhood employers to grow in place keeping jobs close to where people live. Retain and expand the base of service industry employment.
- Retain and expand river-dependent uses while recognizing environmental constraints.
- Speak at area business organizations to encourage use of available resources by local businesses.
Objective 2.3 Ensure there is an adequate pool of skilled workers.
Workforce is often the number one factor businesses consider in making a relocation decision. The MCILEDC will be the leader in ensuring the area has, and can attract, the appropriate workers for the businesses we plan to retain and attract.
- Lead business, labor, education, and government partnerships to solve workforce development problems.
- Work to connect businesses with local schools for development of career-focused programs and curricula.
- Support development of new and expanded post-secondary educational facilities in the region. This would yield more opportunities for workforce development and greater innovative opportunities for growth.
- Partner with educational institutions (K-20) to increase skill sets of the workforce and to ensure students become fully aware of local job availability.
- Identify locations and industries experiencing workforce shortages and needs. Work with state and local partners to address issues.
Strategic Focus Area 3. Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Supporting start-ups is one of the best ways to jumpstart new business investment and create jobs. Part of our economic growth must come from local business growth and new business start-ups. To increase the chances of long-term start-up business success, the MCILEDC will support and promote a variety of entrepreneurial assistance activities that will nurture the entrepreneurial spirit and connect them to other resources within the region.
Objective 3.1 Promote and support entrepreneurs with technical assistance and training.
- Forge an alliance with Service Corps of Retired Executives (S.C.O.R.E.) and the Metro East Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to provide free entrepreneurial and business plan services.
- Build relationships with the entrepreneurship network that exists within the greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area.
- Ensure mentoring and educational services for entrepreneurs are available to increase business acumen.
- Support the local CEO youth program and devise opportunities for collaboration.
Objective 3.2 Support financial needs of entrepreneurs and new business start-ups.
- Collaborate on Business Plan Competitions for local and regional entrepreneurs who have a solid business plan to start their business by giving cash awards and other benefits to support their start-up.
- Develop an entrepreneurship loan and start-up program in partnership with credit unions, community development organizations, and banks, to create a seed capital fund. Encourage a permit fee waiver or reimbursements program.
- Work with and/or create Angel investment groups.
- Develop and/or own an incubator/accelerator/co-working space to help provide emerging businesses with critical support.
Strategic Focus Area 4. Quality of Life.
Most site consultants maintain that although quality of life is not always a “deal-breaker” for certain types of projects, it should not be overlooked. Workers can reside anywhere within a metro area and commute to work; so, quality of life is more important in choosing a region, than a specific site. Quality of life needs to focus not just on attracting a certain demographic; but also about retaining people as life and work needs change. Many policy makers see quality of life strategies as an effective means of business development while furthering other developmental goals such as reducing congestion, improving air and water quality, preserving the local natural environment and open space, and upgrading cultural and recreational amenities. MCILEDC agrees and will enhance the quality of life as follows:
Objective 4.1 Ensure the region’s retail, hospitality, and tourism sectors remain vibrant.
Retail investment continues to be an active and growing contributor to the region’s economic vitality. Not only does hospitality and tourism growth contribute to the local base, but the development of amenities driven by visitor spending also provides quality of life benefits.
- Work with all relevant partners in the retail sector to facilitate growth and investment in the region.
- Highlight opportunities to grow the local hospitality and service industry sectors.
- Encourage downtown revitalization and neighborhood business development.
- Promote existing tourism attractions.
- Educate public on economic benefits of historic preservation and tourism and explore ways to increase state and federal funding for both.
- Support local chambers of commerce by providing resources for business development for their members.
Objective 4.2 Promote improvements adhering to “smart growth” economic development.
The MCILEDC will follow principles to ensure development that complements and strengthens existing assets, contributes to other incremental actions that strengthen communities, increases local community employment opportunities and residential growth, builds long term value to attract a range of other investments, minimizes conflicts, and enhances overall quality of life within the community.
- Recruit businesses in line with State of Illinois goals, which utilize by-products of other regional businesses, and are suited to the region.
- Closely coordinate and comply with county and municipal jurisdictional comprehensive plans for management, growth, and land use. Participate in revisions to these and subsequent development of regulatory code documents.
- Encourage business growth in selected “infill” locations and “clusters” in or near communities to concentrate and maximize access and infrastructure, increase town core utilization, provide diversity of supply or service, convenience, and vibrancy, and minimize potential for urban sprawl, loss of agricultural lands and green space.
- Consistently assess ongoing issues and opportunities that warrant the submission of new transportation projects as local priorities.
- Collaborate and provide guidance and technical support to businesses, local governments, and community organizations on economic development, community development, and life quality initiatives.
- Promote new technologies, expanded broadband service, sustainable “green” alternative energy systems, water and waste management conservation systems, green infrastructure, other “state of the art” efficiency and environmental quality measures.
The implementation of the objectives in the Strategic Plan will be prioritized, scheduled, and implemented as approved by the MCILEDC Board of Directors and carried out by the Executive Director with the assistance of board members, as needed.
The MCILEDC will be the lead organization for implementing this plan, but will act in partnership with the county governments and municipalities within the services area, along with the respective chambers of commerce. It is critical that each partner support this plan as a major component for their own organization’s long-term development strategy. This is important because each institution has specific assets and capabilities that, if applied collaboratively, will benefit the business community, diversify the economy, and achieve the goals of this plan.
Collaboration. In addition to MCILEDC’s core municipal and county partners, the Corporation will collaborate with organizations as applicable and needed to accomplish our purpose and implement our strategies: IDOT, ILDCEO, USDOC-EDA, St. Louis Regional Chamber, Leadership Council SWIL, Southwest Illinois workNet, Southwest Illinois Planning Commission, Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council, S.C.O.R.E., Illinois Manufacturers Excellence Center, Metro East SBDC, community colleges, universities, trade schools, local CEO program, and any other organization that can help the area’s needs in economic development.
Performance Measures. This strategic plan will be reviewed and updated every five years and supplemented in accordance with new opportunities and changing conditions. Incremental economic growth will be annually assessed through documentation of Corporation inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes, and data research. Compilation of performance indicator metrics from other sources such as local, state, federal units of government, and socio-economic data organization clearinghouses, will also be considered.
The following indicators will be tracked to gauge the effectiveness of efforts: new businesses opened/attracted, population changes, jobs created, economic development/business inquiries, business closures, unemployment rate changes, regional tax revenue changes, business investments, increases in per capita income, and workshops held to help business.
The MCILEDC was formed as a regional institutional resource to proactively, assertively, and consistently, promote and facilitate sustainable economic development, growth, and quality of life in the region. This strategic plan is the Corporation’s guide to achieve this mission.