New Economic Council Hopes to Bring Business to Ashland

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ASHLAND - For most information on Missouri's economy, many residents have had to rely on the Missouri Economic Council and other state agencies.

But several small-business owners, city volunteers and city officials in Ashland want to change that. In April 2012, they launched the Southern Boone Economic Development Council (SBEDC) to help bring better economic conditions to the city of Ashland and southern Boone County.

Kim Ponder, president of the SBEDC, said it was interest from various city entities in 2011 that gave birth to the idea of a formal economic council.

"We decided to pool our efforts and work with the city of Ashland and the Chamber of Commerce to create this organization, and we started to make a strategic plan with hiring an outside consultant to help us determine the problems within our community," Ponder said.

Ponder also said, when creating a strategic plan for economic development in Ashland, they focused on what mattered most to their community.

"We looked at what's important from an economic development standpoint because it means so many different things to so many different people. So, we wanted to find a good balance of what was important for our community, and what would also complement our region," Ponder said.

The council plans on working on such things as creating support for existing businesses in town, creating good infrastructure for businesses to move to Ashland, and encouraging new businesses to move into what Ponder refers to as a "bedroom community".

The Council has already been working on building a new city library, which would be the newest addition to the Daniel Boone Regional Library system.

Other business owners, such as Gerald McKenney, say they hope to see more of an entrepreneurial spirit come to Ashland through the work of the council.

"We recognize that there are a lot of obstacles that have to be overcome when starting a new business in town, so we hope to eliminate or to make the process more simple to open up a business in Ashland," McKenney said.

McKenny also told KOMU 8 News he hopes the community and council's work can bring together various entities in town, such as city volunteers, the city council, and paid city workers, to create a mutual vision for the future of the Ashland community.

Ponder says she is optimistic about having such a council in Ashland because of the communication opportunities it allows city officials to have with local business owners.

"I think having this sort of cross-section between small business owners and local officials will open up so many new doors of communication that we never were able to have before," Ponder said.

As of September, the council has only had one meeting, and members are currently working on putting together a website for the organization. The members of the council, however, have already planned several golf tournaments at Eagle Knoll Golf Course in Jefferson City as fundraisers.