The Boonslick Region is a growing part of the State of Missouri, bound by the beautiful Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Boonslick comprises three counties: Warren, Lincoln, and Montgomery. These counties are favored destinations for burgeoning businesses and skilled job seekers, and Boonslick’s population (currently around 100,000) is still set to reach 150,000 by 2030.
Since Business in Focus last featured the Boonslick Region in 2017, there has been a major push toward workforce development, both to keep the growing community economically robust and in anticipation of further growth to come. In the last two years, this manufacturing hub has seen tens of millions of dollars in investment and hundreds of new jobs. Part of the reason for that is ACT, a non-profit dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Through the ACT Work Ready Communities® (WRC) program, ACT’s workforce solutions are helping counties, states, and regions throughout the U.S. to thrive by providing workers with training in key skills that are required in 77 percent of jobs.
Ready to work
All three counties within Boonslick are Work Ready Communities®, signaling to employers that the workforce is skilled, dedicated, and ready to meet the needs of their business in a convenient location along an old Midwestern trading route.
The Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), a voluntary, membership-based organization of Boonslick’s municipalities and counties, has been instrumental in helping the counties achieve Work Ready status. With its comprehensive planning and related services for its members, the Commission works to improve the region’s overall quality of life. The BRPC is a designated Economic Development District (EDD) by the United States Department of Commerce-Economic Development Administration, granted responsibility to coordinate the region’s economic development activities.
For the WRC program, the BRPC has helped to organize events with stakeholders to prepare students and other members of the workforce for the certification process, which has been successful. On the business development end, BRPC utilizes its resources at the Missouri Job Center in Warrenton, MO to understand the workforce concerns of employers. The job center provides training opportunities to youths and adults in the area, and free monthly workshops that are open to the public. In addition to organizing activities at the job center, the BRPC has also recently appointed a Business Outreach Specialist to survey corporations on what their needs are in order to update Boonslick’s programs and services.
Chad Eggen, Executive Director at the BRPC, says that having all of Boonslick’s counties being certified Work Ready® has raised employers’ awareness of the region.
“They can see, from the Work Ready® certificates, the level of talent that is in this region. Because we are certified, now they can look at the statistics, take that data, compare it across the nation, and see the ability of the students who are here,” he tells us. “A lot of the students, if in the blue-collar workforce, are not going to travel too far for work; they want to stay where they are. That keeps businesses engaged to know that this is the workforce they are looking at in the future.”
Mardy Leathers, Director of the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, stated, “The premise of the Certified Work Ready Community program is to create a marketable and developed skill set within our labor market. We’re really creating resiliency in our communities. Our communities are learning how to work together to tackle some of the complex market issues that face all of us… and ensuring that education and employment and training are actually linked together.”
Having the ACT data available isn’t just a motivator for employers, but also the county itself. Since WRC certification, the hard-working region’s statistics have gone up, with many platinum-level skilled individuals.
Leathers elaborated that, “Figuring out the workforce problem is what’s going to set us apart from our competition. It’s going to put us at the front of the pack for job creation and economic growth.”
The future of Boonslick’s economy
When we last featured Boonslick, the conveniently located region had recently completed an entrepreneurship assessment that pinpointed its key economic clusters, which included food processing, agriculture, technology, and other sectors within the manufacturing umbrella. Because of this, the BRPC’s new goal is to expand on the apprenticeship programs offered in the region, particularly in the field of advanced manufacturing, where certain core skills are desired.
“Advanced manufacturing encompasses our economic development ecosystem, according to the cluster analysis that was done. Those sectors all utilize computer skills that are very similar,” Eggen says.
In the coming months and years, the BRPC will work on connecting its talented citizens to companies, federal programs, and funding for apprenticeships. “We will also see two workforce training development centers being implemented in our counties. They are to be aligned with the community college and a non-profit organization, but the investment will also come from the businesses. They will be built by next year,” Eggen adds.
By 2020, the new training centers – which will be the first economic development training centers in the Boonslick region – will focus on Boonslick’s core opportunities for entrepreneurship, namely in advanced manufacturing. Additionally, there are also several automotive and aerospace companies in neighboring counties that have come to rely on Boonslick’s people and businesses more and more in related industries, such as parts manufacturing. With its upcoming training centers, Boonslick will be well situated to provide workforce training support to its neighbors as well.
The boon of location
Indeed, Boonslick’s location has been a gift. It is part of the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area, but offers its residents a rural quality of life. In the spirit of Daniel Boone (the explorer after whom the Boonslick region was named), the almost 80,000 newcomers predicted to join the region since the turn of the century who seek adventures in the fresh outdoors, or who desire to experience the beauty of old riverside trading routes, will find ample opportunities to do just that.
The region’s modern routes are I-70 (east-west) and Highway 61 (north-south). Two Class 1 railroads (Union Pacific and Burlington Northern) also cut through the heavily trafficked region.
With the Mississippi River to the northeast and the Missouri River on the south, Boonslick’s freight industry is growing, both ship and truck. The transportation sector is a key part of BRPC’s five-year economic development plan. This Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) was created by the BRPC with participation from local governments, private businesses, and non-profits to serve as a blueprint for Boonslick’s economic direction. The BRPC also works closely with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
Working collaboratively, the BRPC is able to facilitate challenging and ambitious projects for the region’s economic betterment. For instance, last year, the BRPC partnered with MoDOT, the City of Washington, Franklin and Warren Counties, and the East West Gateway Council of Governments to replace the Route 47 Bridge over the Missouri River, which was originally built in 1936.
Over the last couple of years, the BRPC has also taken on three additional community planning projects. “We have started our comprehensive plans for communities to show them the value of a planned community, and going through the planning process to look at their future. As every house has a blueprint so you know how to put it together, this is a blueprint for success,” Eggen states.
Here to help
For over 50 years, BRPC has been helping fulfill the needs of regional employers as well as the community’s workforce. This spring, staff have been busy assisting with projects, providing community outreach, and going on the road for the Warrenton Job Center and workforce development programs. The East Central Missouri Recycling Center continues to see new patrons weekly and has many educational presentations lined up for the year.
What’s more, BRPC has advocated for increased maximums for the Community Development Block Grants, which annually fund projects in categories such as community facility, workforce training, demolition, infrastructure, and economic development.
In recent news, BRPC just completed a project for Temco Inc., a non-profit, extended employment facility that provides custom packaging, assembly, and order fulfillment services throughout east central Missouri and the greater St. Louis area. Temco is located in Marthasville, Warren County.
Temco reached out to the BRPC in need of extra space for a break room and funding for updated ADA-compliant restrooms. BRPC then approached Warren County about sponsoring the Community Development Block Grant on behalf of the organization. Then BRPC wrote and submitted a successful Community Facilities grant application. The project resulted in a 1,900 square-foot increase and upgraded restrooms. Funding was also available for additional work, which resulted in Temco now having its own water and wastewater systems.
Moreover, being in a region prone to natural disasters such as flooding and tornadoes, BRPC aids communities, school districts, and businesses with mitigation planning, ensuring they are aware of nearby hazards such as dams, creeks, pipes, and fire hydrants.
Boonslick Regional Planning Commission is there to assist businesses in any area in which they may possibly be in need of aid, whether it’s natural disaster preparedness planning, project funding, or hiring and recruitment events. “Most people are surprised to hear about the number and variety of programs in which we are involved,” Chad Eggen told The Missourian Publishing Company.
With an unbeatable location, a skilled labor force, and a helpful EDD that goes above and beyond, Boonslick is an attractive place for new businesses. A community that is both historic yet modern, rural yet conveniently located, Boonslick offers companies the best of the Midwest.