Tri-State Summit focuses on entrepreneurship

Area leaders and lawmakers joined together for the 8th Tri-State Development Summit on this Columbus Day.

The summit first started in 1996 to join communities together to promote regional economic development. More than 300 area leaders turned out for this year's summit in Fairfield, Iowa.

Jim Mentesti with the Great River Economic Development Foundation said, "It used to be your major companies, such as John Deere, would carry your economy or region but it's our firm belief the more onesie, twosie type smaller businesses you can create, it costs less to create them, and it's easier to create them and their opportunity for growth is great."

And that's exactly why this year's Tri-State Development Summit has a entrepreneurial focus. Jim Mentesti with the Great River Economic Development Foundation points to the success of DOT Foods as an example of what can happen with a small number of people and a great idea.

Mentesti said, "They started in a quonset hut and now are a $3 billion a year company."

Mentesti told KHQA this is the only area in the nation in which three states are working cooperatively together to promote growth. Some have argued that it used to be one state against the other, but now the philosophy is - one state's success benefits the region as a whole.

Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack said, "It's not only people from different regions working together, it's also Republicans and Democrats working together."

Just as the economy and the challenges that come along with it are always changing, so does the focus of the Tri-State Development Summit. This year, the attention is on entrepreneurship and the tools used to promote it.

One of the ever-changing focuses of the Tri-State summit is transportation. When the summit first started, the area had about 1500- miles of highway to be built. Now there are less than 300 miles of highway left. The two main focuses are on Highway 34 and Highway 67.

Organizers says the completion of the Avenue of the Saints and the work one Highways 36 and 336 makes the area more attractive for business and growth. The 2007 Tristate Development Summit brought up the importance of bringing high-speed internet to all areas of the Tri-States to promote more local business.

Since 2007, the summit has also worked on bringing an emergency response plan to all 35 counties in our region.

Not only has the summit grown during its 15 years, it's also attracted wider attention from federal lawamakers. Two U.S. Senators, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Congressman Loebsack spoke at Monday's summit.