Kennett city officials "cautiously optimistic" about future of economy

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

KENNETT, MO (KAIT) – The Kennett Chamber of Commerce told Region 8 News Tuesday it was "cautiously optimistic" about the future of southeast Missouri's economy. This comes after reports that a local company was adding employees who had previously been laid off.

"They are starting back and expected to start production again in February and so they're in the hiring process," said Jan McElwrath of the Kennett Chamber of Commerce.

According to McElwrath, Manac Trailers is adding approximately 12 employees. The company has been restructuring for when the economy rebounds.

"A lot depends upon what things come down from the national level that could impact our businesses," said McElwrath.

According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the unemployment rate in Dunklin County is 10.9% compared to the state's 9.2%.

"We tend to react a little slower. Sometimes the downturn takes a little longer to hit but the upswing takes a little longer to hit," said McElwrath. "We have to work together as a county and as a region and our region includes northeast Arkansas because when a business does locate, let's say in Paragould, there's a lot of people that, when our Emerson plant closed here, several people went to work at the Emerson plant in Paragould."

McElwrath said healthcare is booming in southeast Missouri, citing programs partnered by Southeast Missouri State University and Twin Rivers Medical Center.

"Our healthcare community continues to grow and that is our health and mental health services to continue to grow and provide jobs and that's something we're excited about," said McElwrath. "Those are typically well paying jobs with benefits and with an opportunity to advance in many cases."

"If you are unemployed and you have lost your job through no fault of your own, then you're a dislocated worker and you would be able to draw your unemployment while attending a short term approvable training," said Emily Modlin with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development. "A lot of the people that come into our office want manufacturing jobs. We try to let them know they need to go to school to find a different skill."

"Whenever we lost our 700 plus jobs, our Federal Motal and Emerson had closed their doors and this is just Dunklin County alone that lost those jobs, I feel like that was when the start of our economy started going down," said Modlin.

McElwrath said locally owned businesses are struggling more than large retailers.

"Our focus is to retain what we have and really help our existing businesses survive this," said McElwrath.

McElwrath said she hopes voters will vote in favor of a sales tax measure which is expected to be placed on the April ballot. She believed that would help attract potential industries.

"If the city cannot afford to keep streets maintained and city properties maintained, then what's the motivation for private property owners to keep their properties maintained," said McElwrath. "It would be great to think that in 2010 everybody would recover from the last couple of years."

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