Community, workforce, economic and business development

MU Extension specialist helps Hannibal business develop new attractions


Linda Coleberd, owner and general manager of the Mark Twain Cave Complex, turned to MU Extension for help with diversifying her business. Coleberd’s business now boasts a winery and partners with a local dairy to produce cave-aged cheese.

Many small businesses depend on tourism dollars, and Mark Twain Cave in northeastern Missouri is no exception. It was the inspiration for the fictional cavern in Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

In 2009, Linda Coleberd was the new owner and general manager of Mark Twain Cave Complex. It had been in the family for generations, but the longtime special education teacher faced unfamiliar challenges as a new business owner. The economy had stalled and tourism had fallen off. She knew she needed guidance and turned to University of Missouri Extension for help.

For the past five years Coleberd has worked with Charles Holland, MU Extension business development specialist, starting with an introductory small-business course.

“The MU Extension program gave me a lot of background in business and gave me a lot of new ideas I’ve incorporated today out here,” she said.

There are only so many times you can trek through a cave. Coleberd knew the seasonal nature of the cave’s appeal to tourists. She wanted to expand and diversify her business, but was reluctant to take chances and make changes.

“Charles Holland encouraged me to think outside the box and get out on a limb,” Coleberd said.

Over several counseling sessions, Holland offered several ideas to broaden Coleberd’s business model. She opened a winery, teamed with a local dairy to produce and sell cave-aged cheese, and included branded products in the gift shop to promote the business and increase revenue. Coleberd attributes most of the 10 percent increase in sales to her work with the MU Extension business development program.

“You have to be a risk-taker if you want your business to grow, and University of Missouri Extension was my teacher, my professor, to help me think outside the box,” Coleberd said. “I would never have done that without the encouragement of MU Extension.”

Last year, Missouri’s tourism industry generated $14.6 billion in total economic impact and $1.2 billion in local and state taxes, according to a 2013 Missouri tourism division report.

 

As part of the Pesticide Applicator Training program, regional extension specialists conducted certification and recertification training for 3,650 private applicators. More than 2,000 commercial applicators received training through the University of Missouri CPAT program. Of the 2,068 participants, 349 attended certification training and 1,719 attended recertification training. Applicators must undergo recertification training or retesting to retain a commercial pesticide applicator license.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the average annual salary for pesticide workers is $31,690. At that average salary, the program has an estimated statewide economic impact of more than $65.5 million.