Tourism and a skilled workforce were the main topics at a small round-table discussion held on the Missouri State Fairgrounds Wednesday afternoon, highlighted by remarks from Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson.


Randy Kirby

Parson noted that “we need to do a better job of promoting what we have here in Missouri,” adding that it's not too early to start preparing kids in grades K-12 for their future jobs. Jobs that will undoubtedly involve advanced skills. Because, Parson explained, companies will leave Missouri if there is no skilled workforce.

“I want to start promoting what's made here in Missouri,” Parson said. “What I want is when you go into the grocery store, the hardware store, whatever business it is, to know that that product was made in Missouri. And I want you to have the choice to say, hey, would you buy that BBQ if you knew that it was made in Missouri? Or would you buy it if it was made in California? And you don't really care, you just want BBQ sauce. That's how you promote businesses in Missouri,” Parson said.

Following a luncheon, the lieutenant governor spoke to a few dozen invited guests at the Lowell Mohler building while high winds blew outside. State, county and city officials attended, as well as representatives from SFCC, Sedalia District 200, Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Missouri Department of Economic Development (MoDED), Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County (EDSPC) and area business leaders. EDSPC President Rusty Kahrs served as emcee for the noon-hour event.

Parson noted that consumers need to be educated on which products are made in Missouri. In addition, he pointed out that tourism is the second largest industry in the state, behind agriculture.

“Agri-tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. It's starting to go off the charts like it is in Tennessee and Kentucky, a lot of states are starting to expand that. Those are things that are natural for us, that we just need to take advantage of those opportunities,” Parson said.

During his visit to Sedalia, Lt. Gov. Parson also toured Starline Brass and Waterloo Industries.

During his remarks, MoDED Director Mike Downing, who has been working in economic development since 1982, praised EDSPC Executive Director Jessica Craig  as "one of the best in the state. She knows the business," Downing said.

Downing noted that the latest unemployment figures released  by the state show that Missouri is currently at 3.9 percent, the lowest for the state since 2000.

"That's great," he said, "but we still need good employees." Math and Science will factor into the best jobs in Missouri in the future, adding that a significant skills gap exists in Missouri, and it's increasing every day.

During her remarks, the CVB's Carolyn Crooker noted that the economic impact of such as events as Tough Mudder, the Midwest Stud Ram Show and Sale, and the October Paul Klover soccer tournament is huge for Sedalia.

For instance, the Stud Ram show, which brings exhibitor and buyers from over 40 states who stay in Sedalia an average of six days, has a $60,000 economic impact on the immediate area.

The Tough Mudder in October had a $1.5 million impact. and it's scheduled to return this October.

MSF Director Mark Wolfe noted the importance of repeat business from RV rallies in the off season. He added that the Fair hosts 450 events per year, bringing 350,000 people to Sedalia (not counting MSF figures).

For instance, the recent Mo-Kan Border Bonanza (horse show) brought a $45,000 economic impact to Sedalia, Wolfe said.