When Dr. Rod Casey, director of the Theological Education Initiative (TEI), first came to Columbia, he quickly fell in love with the trail systems,...
Attract. Expand. Grow. These are the strategic goals of Regional Economic Development Inc.
REDI introduced itself to the community when the private–public partnership was incorporated on March 14, 1988. Since then, REDI has continued to develop the local economy by assisting new and existing major employers as well as entrepreneurs and startups.
REDI is a nonprofit organization that was started by community leaders including Mary Anne McCollum, then mayor of Columbia; Ray Beck, then city manager; David Horner, then Boone County commissioner; Ernie Gaeth, then executive vice president of Riback Supply Company; and Tom Gray, then general manager of KOMU. These five founders were the first members of the board of directors, and during their first meeting, they voted to expand the board to 11 members.
REDI began in Columbia to serve all of Boone County, but it also coordinates with neighboring counties, cities, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, and the Missouri Partnership, a statewide public–private economic development group. Now, 30 years later, REDI’s board has expanded to 20 members plus nine ex officio board members. In addition to representatives of the city, county, and university, the board now includes representatives from investors such as Shelter Insurance, Commerce Bank, Boone Hospital, Moberly Area Community College, and more.
Although there are only five staff members, there are countless collaborators that help REDI, including investors. In the beginning, REDI had 31 investors. 14 are still investors today, but now they’re among around 100 other investors from the public and private spheres, nonprofits, educational institutions, and more.
“Collaboration is central to REDI’s mission, and the network of connections REDI has made throughout the community is large and continues to grow with each project and initiative,” says Stacey Button, REDI president.
Each collaborator brings a different asset to the REDI team. MU promotes its research and development that helps start new businesses, such as Nanova Biomaterials and ThermaVant Technologies. The Missouri Innovation Center is a key part of the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Moberly Area Community College is crucial for training and workforce initiatives.
“After 30 years, collaboration is still the foundation and mainstay of REDI,” Button says. “Month after month, a large and varied group of community representatives, many of which are natural business competitors, come together to work side by side on behalf of our community. Their long-term commitment to the betterment of our community is inspiring.”
REDI has been recognized by the International Economic Development Council, which named REDI an Accredited Economic Development Organization last year. The AEDO program is a peer review process that evaluates the structure, organization, funding, programs, and staff of an organization seeking accreditation. REDI is one of only 60 accredited organizations worldwide.
In 1988, the first task outlined with the city and its stakeholders was for REDI to create an economic development master plan, which outlined two goals that are still part of REDI today.
The first was to continue to grow Boone County’s economy while also balancing the communities’ values and aspirations; the second was to continue to promote economic diversity through recruiting new businesses, expanding current businesses, and providing support for new business endeavors.
“REDI coordinates the resources the city, county, and university and business community can provide into a business attraction proposal that allows the community to put its best foot forward and achieve results that benefit the community as a whole,” Button says.
In recent years, REDI has helped attract and retain businesses that will provide hundreds of jobs to the area. One of those businesses was Aurora Organic Dairy, which chose Columbia for its $90 million-plus organic milk processing facility. There are plans for an additional $50 million investment as well. The Columbia Aurora plant is one of the largest capital investment business attraction projects in Missouri and will create 150 jobs.
Recent expansion projects include Kraft Heinz, which undertook a more than $100 million renovation and expansion to its 30-year old plant in Columbia, which enticed the business to keep its 300 jobs. Dana Light Axle Products will add a new production line to its plant in Columbia while investing $39 million and creating 135 new jobs.
“REDI’s work on attraction projects, support of existing businesses, and resources for entrepreneurs and startups combines to enhance the economic vitality of the region and ensure a prosperous future,” Button says.