Local officials, community members and members of the area manufacturing community gathered Thursday night at the Sedalia Country Club for the annual Works for You banquet hosted by Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County.
Rusty Kahrs, president of the EDSPC board, said the phrase “manufacturing is in decline” isn’t true in Missouri, noting that last week the statewide unemployment rate decreased to 3.6 percent, the lowest it’s been since July 2000. The state’s jobless rate has been lower than U.S. jobless rate for 35 consecutive months, he added.
“Close to home, manufacturing comprises over 30 percent of our total employment base here in Pettis County,” Kahrs said. “Since launching a strategic, proactive approach to supporting and growing our manufacturing and industrial sectors in 2005, Economic Development Sedalia Pettis County has assisted 62 companies with expansions and new developments.”Kahrs said 2017 was the “single most impactful year in Sedalia’s economic development history” with 415 net new jobs and $310 million in capital investment. He pointed out several recent expansions and developments, including WireCo’s $14 million expansion that added 30 jobs, Capstone Precision Group selected Pettis County as the location for its United States logistics center, and Nucor announced Sedalia as the location of its new micro rebar mill with 250 jobs expected.
Based on the EDSPC slogan, “Economic Development works for you,” the Works for You award is given each year to individuals, groups, corporations or organizations who have gone above and beyond to support, promote and assist economic development.
Two awards were given for 2017, the first being Jim Hargrave with Empire Gas. Hargrave started at Empire Gas as the storekeeper in Trenton in 1983, working his way through the organization and retiring in February as the Sedalia Service Center supervisor.“There is a saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’ Well Jim is a Jack of all trades and a master of all,” Kahrs said during his remarks. “According to the Empire and Liberty Utilities team members who are here with us tonight, Jim was the go-to guy to repair gas detection equipment, plumbing issues, electrical issues, you name it and he can fix it. Empire saved thousands of dollars because Jim took care of whatever problem came up.
“Jim was good at his job because he never met a stranger. He is easy to talk to and interested in what you have to say. Even with (EDSPC) prospects, Jim was always able to make a great connection and help us land deals.”
“Sedalia has always been a special place for us and our family,” Hargrave said when accepting the award. “And even though we lived in Marshall, Sedalia was No. 1 and there are people that will get out and do things and it’s always been a pleasure working here.”The second award-winner isn’t a Sedalia resident, but is a familiar face for EDSPC and Pettis County manufacturers.
Mark Dawson is a member of the regional economic development team, and Kahrs said Pettis County’s growth would not have been possible without Dawson on the team.
“I can personally say that we would have never sourced the opportunity or landed the Nucor facility here if it weren’t for this person, their relentless efforts and commitment to our community,” Kahrs said when describing Dawson.Dawson started his career as a local economic developer in Haiti, Missouri, later leading economic development efforts in Jackson County, Missouri. He now supports more than 120 communities in economic development efforts as the Community Affairs Manager for Kansas City Power & Light.
“This person doesn’t stop until they find a solution. They are always willing to drop what they’re doing to work on an economic development deal in Pettis County. This person knows someone in every community across the state,” Kahrs said. “I can wholeheartedly say this individual is one of the most well-respected economic development professionals in the state of Missouri.”
“I love Pettis County and Sedalia, it’s kind of like one of my second homes,” Dawson said when accepting his award. “I’ve been very blessed, I’ve been doing this for almost 31 years and you guys make it fun. That’s what it should be — you make a difference in the world, that’s what God gives you to do, that’s what we do.”