Community, economic, business and workforce development

Address issues and opportunities of Missouri’s economic infrastructure, communities, public services, economic development, jobs and educational access.

Kemper Military School campus is redeveloped to serve the community


Kemper's former library, Math Hall, is now the main building for State Fair Community College in Boonville.

Kemper Military School, Boonville, Mo., was founded in 1844. The “West Point of the West” boasts many nationally famous alumni. It survived the Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam War.

But it didn’t survive the 21st century. Declining enrollments brought about Kemper’s closure in 2002. Ten beautiful, neocolonial buildings, including red-brick academic halls, a gracious president’s home and large residence halls, sat vacant.

The 46-acre campus played a large role in the city’s identity as a popular 19th century Missouri river town destination. Boonville, already hit hard by plant closings, had lost its sole institution of higher education and hundreds of cadets, as well as jobs for instructors and administrative support staff. Residents had to commute to Fayette, Marshall, Sedalia or Columbia for higher education.

The city did not want to see the campus abandoned, so it purchased Kemper in 2003. But over time, the buildings fell into disrepair, roofs sagged and portions of the campus were surrounded by high wire fencing. Worse, a large tower atop  the administrative building collapsed in 2010.

So Mayor Julie Thacher reached out to Jim Gann, a Boonville resident and director of technology business development at MU Extension’s Small Business and Technology Development Centers (SBTDC). With funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Gann worked with area stakeholders on a plan. He facilitated a series of community stakeholder meetings and researched historic preservation and realistic tenants. After preliminary visioning, Gann continued discussions with city residents, concerned stakeholders and higher education institutions. He sought advice on getting buildings up to code for education, recreation, hotel and housing.

An innovative proposal emerged: offer Kemper and its redeveloped facilities to higher educational institutions as an open, plug-and-play campus. Gann facilitated negotiations with several higher education institutions to use the campus. State Fair Community College of Sedalia was attracted to the campus and its location, and eventually opened a new campus on the Kemper grounds. The city agreed to lease the refurbished library, and a full slate of classes began in the fall of 2012. This new campus and the program are expected to draw hundreds of students, many of them local residents, and create up to 100 part- or full-time jobs.

While there is still much redevelopment to do, more improvements are in the works, and new tenants are being reviewed for suitability and best fit to fully rejuvenate the campus, maintain its historic appeal and attract more investment.


In FY 2013, the MU Conference Office coordinated 21 conferences in Columbia hotels. These conferences infused $524,948 directly into the local economy for food, beverage, facility rental, lodging and local transportation expenditures (not including money that participants paid for their own lodging, meals and shopping).

The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates on average, a Columbia visitor spends $292 for a one-night stay in Columbia.

Cade Reynolds: From 4-H Clover Kid to e-commerce entrepreneur

Cade Reynolds isn’t your typical 16-year-old 4-H member. He’s the owner of CSR Enterprises, short for Cade Scott Reynolds Enterprises, and builds websites using Joomla, a content management system used all over the world to power websites.

photo: Cade Reynolds

Cade Reynolds, a 16-year-old high school junior from Ste. Genevieve, designs Web pages using Joomla. He learned his skills through his county’s 4-H program and was a presenter at the June 2013 Missouri 4-H State Congress in Columbia.

Cade describes himself as “computer savvy.” Amy Patillo, MU Extension 4-H youth specialist for Howell County, describes him as a “natural” with Web design. Cade began his 4-H career as a  Clover Kid.

Cade attended a Joomla session at the 2012 State 4-H Congress. Patillo said he navigated the system quickly and began moving around the room working with other 4-H members to see how he could help them. “In less than four hours, 95 percent built their own Joomla website, installed a Joomla template, uploaded graphics and built a blog site,” she said.

She was so impressed with Reynolds’ abilities that she invited him to attend the Joomla World Conference in San Jose, Calif., at the eBay headquarters when she was invited to speak.

The funds for Cade’s first flight, hotel and travel expenses were made possible by members of his community, the Ste. Genevieve County MU Extension Center, the state 4-H program, and the MU Extension Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Development program (ExCEED). The Joomla video team paid for his conference admission and put him on the video team at the conference. He was the youngest person in attendance.

Through the conference he has been able to rub elbows with employees of eBay, Google, Sears and other big-name companies.

At the 2013 State 4-H Congress held in Columbia, the high school junior made a presentation during the “Geek Out With Us! Ecommerce and Joomla!” Web design session.

For more information about the University of Missouri Extension 4-H Center for Youth Development, go to


During fiscal year 2013, the Business Development Program helped clients create or retain 9,328 jobs.

Aid after disasters

Community Emergency Management Program specialists helped Missouri communities devastated by floods, tornadoes and drought to focus on revival of resilient families, business, farms and communities.