Staff Updates

Staff Updates: May 2021


Sheridan Garman-Neeman, Executive Director

 In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of Kaysinger, CARE, and TRCDC I have been working on or assisting with multiple projects here and around the region. Some of those projects include:

  • Overseeing the workforce development study
  • Serving on the regional loan fund underwriting committee ( it is really rewarding to help fund a small business that otherwise would not be able to make it)
  • Working with the Missourians for Responsible Transportation on multiple walkability/ AD grants including one for Hickory county, the city of Clinton, grants in Lowry City, Windsor, Warsaw, and Lincoln.
  • Working on a walkability project in the city of Wheatland
  • Assisting with broadband development efforts around the region.
  • Learning the ins and outs of ARPA funding so that I can share them with local governments
  • Reviewing multiple grant applications
  • Working with our new grant specialist to submit several federal grant applications including one to restore the Bates and Vernon County courthouses.
  • Working to develop our MoDOT, EDA, and CARE work plans and budgets for the next year.
  • Staff development- we held a staff development day to get in the rhythm of working together again and I have been working with individual staff members to train them.
  • Attending transportation planning meetings so that we are caught up and I can train the new transportation planner.

Michelle Slater, Regional Planner

In transportation, we recently finished the Title VI plan that is required every three years by MoDOT. The Title VI plan is required by any program receiving federal funds. This plan prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. It also provides an implementation plan to assure meaningful access to services by people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). We are also developing our work plan for FY22 as required by MoDOT. In Quad-Lakes I am developing an FY22 budget as well as starting a grant call for FY22. There will be a pesticide collection event on June 5, 2021, at Producers Exchange No. 84. This is located at 21127 Hwy 65, Lincoln MO 65338. Lastly, I have submitted my resignation from the Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission. My last day will be May 27, 2021. This was not an easy decision to make as I have enjoyed my last two years with Kaysinger greatly. I want to thank each one of you for the opportunities and growth that have come with being in this position. I wish everyone the best in their future endeavors.

Ashley Swartz, Community Development Administrator

I am working with the Preston Fire Department on a CDBG application for a new fire station. We have to survey to determine eligibility so the process will be more extensive, but if funded, it’ll all be worth it. The architect for the project is working on the Preliminary Architect Report so that it’s ready when applications are open. The 2021 CDBG application cycle will hopefully be out soon, and hopefully, the awards for 2020 projects will be announced soon as well. There are 70% tax credits for sale for Lily’s House in Adrian, and Friends of the Hickory County Health Department. If you know of any business interested in purchasing these tax credits, please send them my way. Both these organizations really need our help. Things are moving along well with our communications plan. In addition to the communications plan being written, a digital package is being created with our new logo. A new logo has been designed and chosen and we can’t wait to reveal it. I’ve been working on our annual report. Once I get all the information about projects, we will get that printed and sent out. We hope to have that out soon. Remember to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn as well to keep up with all things Kaysinger.

Teresa Heckenlively, St. Clair County Economic Development Director

I have been working to assist the Main St. Businesses with concerns over maintaining the esthetics of Main Street for new building development. These ideas and suggestions will be given to the City in hopes of an ordinance to be passed and enforced. In Lowry City, I have been working with Missourians for Responsible Transportation on the City’s Anonymous Donor Grant. This technical assistance grant will help the city with sidewalk assessments and connection needs that make accessibility to everyday destinations safe for all modes of transportation. I had the pleasure of spending a day with Jackson Hotaling from MRT showing him around Lowry City, making introductions, while doing some biking on Earth Day. I have been working as a liaison between a new business and the City of Lowry City to amend right-of-ways and by-ways on some commercial property for building development. In Osceola, I have been working with Lewis Equine Assisted Programs on funding resources and contacts. I will be working with the City of Osceola and Kaysinger Basin RPC’s, Shannon Stewart on an America Walks Grant for a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon Grant. This grant would give the City a flashing beacon to be placed on Truman Rd. near Casey’s General Store and St. Clair County Health Center to warn motorists if Truman Rd. of potential pedestrian traffic. In the County I have been working on the Sac Osage Quilt Block Journey, adding quilt blocks and brochure planning. These brochures will be available to the public sometime in June and will also direct people to the Sac Osage Quilt Block Journey Facebook page for updates on new quilt blocks as they are placed. I assisted with the Kaysinger Basin RPC Workforce Study and have partnered with the Osceola Community Chamber of Commerce to conduct outreach to businesses on Osceola Square for the Broadband Speed Test.

Ben Vickers, Vernon County Economic Development Director

May marks just over a year that I have been working as the Vernon County Economic Developer. In the past few months, I have been very busy working with local organizations on community development efforts, and have been lucky enough to field several business leads during the same period of time. Since I started this position I have been leading a study of affordable housing stock in Nevada which is now very close to completion. Broadly, Nevada has a large number of sub-standard homes but cannot afford the cost of demolition or rehabilitation, and the accumulation of potential cash flow for our private investors is a slow process. Development progress is always slow due to the high costs of infrastructure such as sewage, water, and road access. The city is on board with developing and implementing an incentive and infrastructure plan for new housing using economic development tax financing options and on my advice has started conversations with a municipal law firm to begin the process of developing incentives for growth. The business leads that have occurred are exciting, and most will be filling in previously vacant space. My hope is that by implementing new incentives now, future developments will be able to utilize those as a resource when locating to Nevada/Vernon County. The housing assessment should be done within the next month or two. I have also been working on a website for our local ED group, Build VC. The website will act as a landing pad for businesses looking to come to Nevada/Vernon County and will feature the amazing resources we have available as a county. The website, Buildvc.org, launched on April 14th. Another ongoing project has been the Nevada HAB site. This month, I applied to the EPA for a Brownfield technical assistance grant, which not only will identify any environmental problems with the 87-acre site, but also assist in redevelopment planning, which is just as exciting. Just two blocks away from the facility, the school district will be building a new elementary school, so redevelopment in this blighted portion of the city can serve many purposes including expansion of housing options. In addition, I have been voted in as a Board Member for the Nevada Chamber of Commerce. Through this position, I hope to further my relationship with our local small businesses, especially the ones that at times get overlooked. I hope that by fostering these connections I will have more community support and involvement if the time comes to do a bigger, community-based project. As part of this, I am also working with the director of the Chamber of Commerce to start a joint tourism board for the city and the county. While at one time there was a fairly active tourism board in the city, it was disbanded. I will be restructuring the former board and creating new guidelines for its operations to fairly advise the city on tourism-related activities. This will bolster the marketability of the city to visitors and even potential residents and businesses. I sincerely am enjoying my work as the Vernon County Economic Developer. Every day I get to work on and learn something new while working with some great people. During the month of April, I attended the Heartland IEDC courses through Webinar which so far have been very informative. It is unfortunate that they were delayed due to COVID-19 until now because I know they would have been incredibly helpful more towards when I started in this role. However, I do think that having a little bit of “field” experience has helped me absorb the information and follow the concepts. I am looking forward to pursuing some economic development certifications and building more experiences related to the field. In relation to that pursuit, coming up in June I will also be attending the annual Site Selectors Guild Conference in Orlando Florida. This is made possible by the Robert M. Ady Professional Development Scholarship, awarded nationally to five young economic development professionals. I am quite excited and honored to be selected for this award, and look forward to providing a report on the conference.

Jo Ann Lane, Benton County Economic Development Director

March and April were very busy with several new business openings and more projects on the horizon. The Housing Study is complete!  We will now move forward with “What’s Next” and “how can we best use this information”. I continue to gather support and data for the broadband speed tests as reliable and affordable broadband is very imperative in our rural communities. As mentioned above several new businesses have opened or soon to open in Benton County.  Ribbon cuttings have been held for Hidden Oaks Ranch Cabins Getaways and T n’ J Back Road Bait both in rural Warsaw. Some of the other new businesses that have opened are Ella Bella’s in Cole Camp, Warsaw Adventures and Beautiful Faces in Warsaw, Circle F Boutique and Trading Post in Fristoe and Johnson’s Golf Carts in Lincoln. A new campground is in operation at Benton Ridge Winery and Campground and the winery should open before Memorial Day. RiOak is expanding in Cole Camp and the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting will be held on May 22. Another exciting venture will be the addition of a butcher shop in Cole Camp. Since January a collaboration team with Benton County Extension, Start Here, SBDC @SFCC, and myself have worked together with CC’s Butcher Shop to make this a reality. A soft opening is scheduled for May 8. Planning meetings have been ongoing with The Harbor @ City Union Mission in rural Warsaw for their vocational training center.  An open house is scheduled for May. Jackman Meat Processing in rural Warsaw received the Meat and Poultry Processing Grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture last fall and their addition is complete. A grand opening will be held soon to showcase the improvements. Dillon Harness is working with Benton County on their Hazzard Mitigation Plan. I’ve been privileged to attend meetings with the cities, schools, and county. I attended Open Houses for the New Growth Women’s Business Center and I am honored to serve on the WBC Advisory Board. I was excited to be one of 170 economic development professionals to virtually attend the Heartland Economic Development Course (HEDC) in April and receive fundamental economic development training on topics ranging from business, retention and expansion, workforce development, real estate and entrepreneurship to marketing, finance, ethics and managing economic development organizations.  It was a great course and I am thankful for the opportunity to attend. As always, keep watching!

Nick Allison, Cedar County Economic Development Director

The Cedar County office continues to work with businesses and not-for-profits in the region as opportunities arise. This past week we were awarded $6,000 for two not-for-profits in downtown El Dorado Springs. Our work with the Stockton Landing project is moving forward as communication with the Army Corp of Engineers allows, but at the last meeting, we officially merged with another group and several working on the project now sit on their board. We are optimistic. Jackson Tough has resigned from the El Dorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. We had a good working relationship with Jackson and hope to continue that with whoever replaces him in the coming months. Our active projects with the Chamber will move forward. Next week business and community leaders will be meeting with a representative from the Missouri Department of Economic Development to talk about the state of Cedar County and opportunities moving forward. Our work with the Opera House Arts Council on the Wayside Film Festival has thus far been a success. We received twenty-nine films from around the world and will be meeting to discuss selections next week. Screenings will take place during the El Dorado Springs Picnic in late July. We hope that this will be a yearly fundraiser for the Arts Council for the foreseeable future.

Dillon Harness, Disaster Recovery Coordinator

As of the writing of this update, the 2021 St. Clair County Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan is in the hands of FEMA for review. I have not received anything back from them yet, but this does mean that the plan is in its final stages prior to approval. Once the plan does come back from FEMA, ideally with as few corrections as possible, that remains to be seen. Any changes and modifications will be made the day the plan comes back so that it may be resubmitted and ideally get FEMA approval. A big thank you to everyone who assisted in the planning process for St. Clair County, it was worth everyone’s time and energy to ensure that Hazard Mitigation continues to be an integral part of St. Clair County. Formal FEMA approval of this plan will mark the first Hazard Mitigation Plan done by Kaysinger that will expire in 2026. As far as Benton County is going, things continue to run smoothly regarding this plan update. All but one community, Cole Camp, has adopted the plan, but they will adopt it at their city council meeting later tonight. Other than this, everyone continues to be onboard with participation and meeting the guidelines set forth to participate in the plan update. There is one big announcement with this plan update that does need to be addressed, and that is coming up on May 27th, there will be a countywide Hazard Mitigation meeting in Lincoln at Foster Hall for key stakeholders of Benton County. Food from Mozark Mocha will be provided. This meeting will take place at 11:30 am, and it is mandatory if you have a role in Hazard Mitigation for Benton County. Following this meeting will be my time to work on completing the first full draft of the Plan. This plan will go to SEMA before its predetermined June 7th deadline, then will be opportunities to revise and resubmit appropriately and timely. Once my time working on HMP is temporarily complete, I will be moving into taking online Geographical Information Systems (GIS) courses through the ESRI online academy, which pending approval of funding, will take one to two weeks to fully complete. After this is complete, I am not sure what Sheridan has in store for me, but I look forward to an expanded role with Kaysinger over the summer and going into the future.

Shannon Stewart, Grant Writing Specialist

Grant season is in full swing!  Most recently, I assisted Sheridan with submitting an application for Project STEM to the EDA Venture Build to Scale Challenge. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of that process and learn what EDA is looking for in a grant. I also assisted the Osage Valley Fire Protection District with a grant submission to the Gary Sinise Foundation for turnout gear.  This gear is very badly needed by the department from a safety and training standpoint. I have also been working with the Deer Creek Fire Protection District and the Lakeview Heights Fire Protection District for turnout gear requests and finding suitable grants for their needs.  In addition, I have been working with the Clinton Fire Department to identify some needs and locate appropriate grants to fund those requirements. The Fristoe Community Center is currently on hold due to some changes within the board, but the hope is to continue moving forward with that project.  Most currently, I am working on the National Park Service Paul Bruhn grant for courthouse preservation for Bates and Vernon counties.  We are working closely with the commissioners to further define their requirements, and get those grants submitted by May 12. It’s been a busy quarter already, and I’m sure that momentum will continue through the summer. I’m looking forward to all the opportunities coming our way and doing my part to assist our region with its funding needs.

Katie Hunter, Administrative Assistant

Currently, I’m working on updating and inventorying and checking maintenance on our technology equipment, and working on figuring out what needs to be replaced. I just recently finished helping Ashley with sending out letters about the NAP grants. I have been working with Teresa and Jo Ann creating maps, fliers, and other documents that they have needed for their projects. I am continuing to work on archiving all of Kaysinger’s past projects and project data, I have also been assisting with building maintenance and upkeep at the BDC and our main office and helping the tenants. In addition to these larger projects, I perform daily administrative duties around the office and assist the other staff members with any duties they have.