MRPC News Release

For immediate release
Sept. 24, 2015

For more information, contact
Connie Willman at (573) 265-2993 or cwillman@meramecregion.org or
Lyle Thomas at (573) 265-2993 or lthomas@meramecregion.org



Regional Naturally Meramec meeting discusses how to market 600 businesses in the eight-county region


ST. JAMES­­—After five months of county meetings, Naturally Meramec Consortium hosted 37 attendees at its first regional meeting on Aug. 25 to discuss how to bring 600 businesses into one marketing project.

Connie Willman, Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) community development specialist, Executive Director Bonnie Prigge and Lyle Thomas, community development specialist, led the meeting that was held at Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) in St. James. Willman reviewed a list of consortium goals with participants that included agriculture, tourism and culinary businesses and tourism representatives from the eight-county region.

“The purpose of Naturally Meramec Consortium is to bring agriculture, tourism and culinary businesses together to find ways to use and market each-other’s products and services,” Willman said. “ It also creates a culture of businesses that benefit from symbiotic relationships with other producers, suppliers and customers.”

Willman shared business needs previously identified at county meetings and asked that attendees offer any additional comments and prioritize the list of needs. One of the highest priorities was marketing opportunities and Willman announced one that would be coming soon.

“MRPC will hold its annual dinner on Oct. 30 at the Havener Center in Rolla,” Willman said. “We will have a Naturally Meramec Consortium display of local products and services for those who would like to participate by displaying their product or service.”

Willman asked those interested to sign up.

Another priority was creating awareness of existing businesses in the region. The consortium will create a brochure and website for businesses and developing a Facebook presence. Business owners have the opportunity to share information about their business at future meetings in order for the consortium to get to know each business better.

Featured speaker for the evening was Peter Hofherr, CEO of St. James Winery. He introduced the winery as a two-generation, family owned business established in 1970. The business distributes its products in 17 states and welcomes between 80,000 and 100,000 visitors a year.

Hofherr’s presentation also included information about agribusinesses and agritourism in the Meramec Region, addressing Naturally Meramec as a cluster development exercise in that geographical concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers and firms in related industries and associated institutions are invited to participate in the consortium.

“The wine cluster has ties to agricultural, hospitality, tourism and food clusters with goals to improve regional competitiveness and speed up development in related clusters,” Hofherr said.

Hofherr said the benefit of the consortium would be economies of scale, reduced costs, faster innovation and product development, increased attention from suppliers and service providers, access to a labor force with specialized skills and increased attention from government and academia. He also shared results from research he conducted on wine trails associated with tourism businesses in the area.

Meeting minutes with a list of business needs and regional attendants can be found online at meramecregion.org.

“Input was positive and most attendees want to be part of the developing consortium,” Willman said.

Attendees were invited to stay for refreshments and network after the meeting. Refreshments were provided by Swiss Meat and Sausage Company, St. James Marketplace Café, Kill-Kim Foods LLC, St. James Winery and Hummingbird Kitchen with earth friendly tableware provided by Earth-To-Go.

Business owners who would like to participate in future meetings and the consortium project may contact Willman at 573-265-2993, 573-265-3868 or by email at cwillman@meramecregion.org. The consortium will meet bi-montly. The next meeting will be held on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at MRPC, 4 Industrial Drive, St. James.

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 25, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion.

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