By Woodrow Polston
Vandalia city officials joined members of the Vandalia Area Chamber of Commerce last week to discuss a partnership for driving efforts in economic development. City Administrator Darren Berry welcomed everyone to join in the discussion at the meeting. He began by stating that the city would like to extend resources to the Chamber of Commerce to help bring more business to Vandalia.
“I presented this idea of working together to the chamber one day,” said Berry. “I have discussed the idea of working together for the common goal of furthering economic development. This is something that has been kicked around for a few years now. I have had discussions with other city administrators, other chambers of commerce, and have been given a clear picture of how some of these towns structure their economic efforts. One that I have found that seems to work well, is the city of Mexico. They work hand in hand with their chamber of commerce,” he added.
For years now, the Pike County Development Authority has been working with the city of Vandalia to help produce promotional materials for the city, as well as other services such as writing grants. The city has also been a member of the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments, which has also been a great resource for acquiring grants. The Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments was organized in 1968 following the passage of Chapter 251RsMO by the General Assembly in 1968. For over 30 years, the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments has been providing services to local units of governments. Members of the chamber took turns suggesting new ideas.
“I think that some type of promotion for our local businesses would be excellent,” said Frank Wallace. “There seems to be a growing movement to shop local, and a lot of people are talking about it. I think that we need to better promote this so that more people can act on it. I believe that the chamber could be instrumental in this, by means of social media and or other advertising outlets. Billboards could be a great resource to grab the attention of people passing through on Highway 54,” he added.
Another idea that was proposed, was for the city and the chamber to consider placing small outbuildings similar to those that are located in Bowling Green, on any available lot off of Highway 54. These small shed-like buildings in Bowling Green are rented out on short term leases to entrepreneurs who are just getting started in their business. This would provide small business owners in the Vandalia area the opportunity to launch their business without the overhead costs that are associated with renting a building.
“I think that the shed idea is good,” said Linda Klug, president of the Lafemme Arts Club. “It would be convenient for consumers who are looking for something specific, they could just stop in and purchase whatever it is that the business is providing without walking through an entire store,” she added. Others who were present agreed that the idea could have potential for success. Mayor Ralph Kuda Jr., expressed that he would like to see the chamber given more assistance from the city, to help them in their efforts.
“We need to help the chamber out, and give them the power to do some things,” said Kuda. “Monetary assistance should not be an issue, but they cannot do hardly anything with a small amount, such as $1,000,” he added. Darren Berry explained how the financial assistance from the city of Mexico supports the Mexico Chamber of Commerce.
“The city of Mexico has a budget that gives their chamber a certain amount of dollars,” said Berry. “With those dollars, the chamber helps with promotions for Mexico, with tourism, groundbreaking, and with economic development in the area. The chamber also has a website and a new app for local businesses. These things are something that we could do here in Vandalia as well,” he added.
The group agreed to meet again for further discussion at a later date to be announced.