Tri-State leaders converge in Quincy

Area leaders and lawmakers joined together for the 9th Tri-State Development Summit in Quincy Wednesday.

"When you've got things like transportation, and rivers issues and tourism, and the workforce, one of the best ways to get things done is in a collaborative format," said Jim Mentesti, the president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation (GREDF) in Quincy and Adams County.

"I think it's very important that this group meets to take care of our region," said George Walley, the NEMO Economic Development Executive Director.

An issue that continues to top the agenda at every Tri-State summit is transportation. This year, it included talks of rehabilitating and expanding our seven lock and dams.

"From 600 foot locks to 1200 foot locks is what we'd like to get out of today," said Mentesti.

"That would speed up our barge traffic tremendously," said Quincy Mayor John Spring.

Another issue flowing down the Mississippi is the connection with our soy bean production and how access through an expanded Panama Canal could create a huge economic boost for Tri-States' exports.

"Asia in particular is very key in our market for soy beans. And the Panama Canal allows soy beans to go down the river, not far from where we're standing, to get to the Gulf and onto larger vessels and be loaded into the canal," said Jim Sutter, a summit speaker and CEO of the U.S. Soy Bean Export Council.

Iowa's Governor Terry Branstad made an appearance at Wednesday's summit, ready to discuss his new education reform initiative among other issues.

"The problem is we lose some of our best teachers in the first five years. So we want to make it more attractive for beginning teachers and also have an opportunity for them to move up and be rewarded for the improvements and performance of their students," said Branstad.

Governor Branstad also discussed job creation.

"One thing I mentioned is transmission of energy. Twenty percent of our energy is done by wind. We have places in northwestern Iowa that are producing all kinds of electricity. That's why transmitting that to other parts of the Midwest is important, and that's where regionally, we can work together in a really positive way," said Branstad.

Local high speed internet was another talking point at the Tri-State Summit. MOBroadbandNow is an initiative to bring high speed internet access to 95 percent of Missouri by 2014.

The project was created by Governor Jay Nixon in 2009. Right now, 18 regional teams are making plans to meet that goal.

MOBroadbandNow Director Damon Porter hopes that broadband internet access will help small businesses be more competitive.

"It's not a paper society, it's all online. So that connection is critical for businesses to connect with other businesses, to connect with their vendors, to connect with their customers," said Porter.

High speed internet access is an important part of making the Tri-States competitive in a global ecomony. This initiative will also help small business stay relevant in the 21st century.

The Tri-State Development Summit was created after the flood of "93", when community leaders decided they could overcome major obstacles better by working together.