State of the City Part III - Economic Development
Posted on 10/25/2023

The following is the final article in a three-part series from Mayor Stacy Kinder to the Southeast Missourian newspaper on the State of the City.

My closing installment of the 2023 State of the City focuses on the economic development initiatives going on around the city, and how they impact our daily life here. To begin this message, it is important to share some data that has been amassed recently for our city and area. Studies conducted by Ernst and Young (EY) in 2020 and 2021 show Cape has had sluggish population and employment growth over the past two decades. The areas to the south in the Missouri Bootheel, and to the east in Southern Illinois, have seen terribly sharp declines in both in that time. This regional population loss presents a significant risk to the Cape Girardeau economy.

Cape has seen a loss of skilled workers, and an aging community. In fact, there were fewer jobs in Cape at the time of the 2021 study than there were in 2001. The studies also concluded:

  • entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives need to increase
  • attracting and keeping college educated residents is paramount
  • increasing quality of life and career opportunities for the 18-35 age demographic are important


Recently, additional data from economist Jeff Pinkerton at the Missouri Department of Economic Development shows that the communities in our three-county area (Perry, Cape, and Scott counties) have strong job specialization in manufacturing, health care, retail, and agriculture, compared to US numbers. On the flip side, data shows that jobs in computers, software and IT, legal work, and engineering are low.


The City of Cape government has several strategies that focus on these issues of economic development and vitality for our area: partnerships, departmental work, and financing tools at the City’s disposal.


City Partnerships

There are significant strategic partnerships the City maintains and engages with in its focus on economic development. These partnerships are vital, as the partner organizations engage in the work the City recognizes as essential, but which the City government does not do itself:

  1. SE MO Redi — SE MO Redi focuses on local and regional industrial and business recruitment in Bollinger, Cape, Perry, and Scott Counties, while also creating a local focus here in Cape. It is developing local and regional partners, both public and private, to support:
    • business attraction, growth, and innovation
    • talent and workforce development, in both the trades and the digital economy
    • regional projects and initiatives
  2. Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce — The Cape Chamber is the area’s leading business and community development organization. Central to its mission, the Chamber has heavy ongoing involvement in local business advocacy and promotion. Recently, the Cape Chamber has established several new strategic goals:
    • To support business growth and sustainability
    • To study the needs of an “enhanced quality of life” in our area.
    • To create regional partnerships, in which strategic legislative advocacy will be promoted at the state and federal levels.
  3. Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau (VisitCape) — VisitCape is the lead organization for the City in attracting and promoting group events, conventions and tournaments, and bringing tourists to Cape. It also plays a huge role in connecting visitors to Cape’s entertainment, retail, hotel, and restaurant options.
  4. Old Town Cape — OTC represents one of Missouri’s largest downtown areas, which covers 130 blocks, 4,500 residents, and more than 300 businesses. It’s mission is to engage in the vital work of downtown revitalization, and does that through key focus areas of:
    • business support and property development
    • public area beautification and historic building renovation
    • promotion and community involvement
  5. Southeast Missouri State University — The City does not have a contracted partnership agreement with SEMO as it does with the organizations listed above. However, SEMO is considered a vital partner in economic development for a variety of reasons:
  • SEMO is the largest organization engaged in the recruitment of young people to Cape, and in efforts to help them stay here for work after graduation.
  • Many institutions in Cape and the surrounding area would not find the employees needed without SEMO graduates serving in those roles—especially in education and health services careers.
  • A study conducted by Lightcast (formally Emsi Burning Glass) in 2022 concluded the following:
    • SEMO created a $904 million annual impact in FY 2019-20 on the state economy through operations and construction spending, visitor and student spending, and alumni impact. Impacts are seen within Cape every year in rent and home ownership, business patronage, and personal spending from the thousands of students and staff members.
    • Top occupations supported by SEMO alumni include chief executives, personal and operations managers, teachers, and financial managers. Growing programs focused on the emerging business needs in cybersecurity, GIS, and computer science are also strong.
  • In a separate study by Lightcast on the impacts of the renovations at the Houck stadium complex, it was concluded:
    • Every $1 of Houck complex initial capital investment will lead to $1.33 in added sales throughout the county.
    • The complex will bring $31 million in added income via short-term capital spending and long-term visitor spending through 2033.
    • The renovated stadium will produce an increase in out-of-county visitors, with an annual impact of $244,000 in increased visitor spending (from current $775 thousand per year to a projected $1 million).


In various ways, all of these City partners are directly targeting the concerns highlighted by the various economic development studies. Financial support and other involvement by the City is ongoing, and essential. Other areas of the state and country have used this strategic and collaborative focus to see vast growth over time, and it is desperately needed in our area as well.


City Departments

The City’s Community Development Department, Parks and Rec Department, and the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport all play vital roles in various aspects of the economic development in the city.


The Community Development Department is on the front lines of interaction with development and projects in the city, and in assisting with the permitting and financial planning needed to get those projects done. This department also works with property owners to renovate, sell, or tear down derelict properties, which also opens up cleared lots for new development. This information and much more can be found at


The City’s Parks and Recreation Department also plays an important role in the City’s economic development. Often working hand in hand with VisitCape, the Parks and Rec team plans and attracts major events to our city, and provides the facilities, programming, and tournaments that are enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors every year. These quality of life initiatives are incredibly important investments to both our region, and the city’s bottom line. Please go to or to see all the events and offerings happening in our city parks and facilities.


The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, FlyCGI, is vital to the growth and development of our city and the region. In 2019 Cape’s voters renewed a ¼-cent Capital Improvement Sales Tax, in part to help provide funding for a new terminal and other improvements. In addition to state and federal funding, that revenue source will create a new facility to encourage future growth. The Taxiway B reconstruction is complete, and new T-hangers and the passenger terminal building are slated for completion by June 2024.


Currently, there are 12 weekly round-trip flights to Nashville International Airport. Our airport also averages 250 operations per day which include military flights, corporate aircraft, and flight training through four flight instruction schools, including SEMO’s growing pilot program. Over 1,300 gallons of fuel are sold per day at the Cape Regional Airport, generating over $5,000 in sales per day. Much more can be found at


City Economic Development Tools

In conjunction with the City’s Finance and Community Development departments, the City administration is charged with the development of strategic financial goals, seen in the annual budget. Vital to this work is fiscal planning and forecasting, while taking into account the needed investments in public safety, infrastructure, and quality of life issues. In addition to our general sales tax, various voter-approved tax initiatives like the Parks, Recreation, and Stormwater Sales Tax (PRS), Capital Improvement Sales Tax (CIST), and Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) have generated funding for many large scale improvements to the city.


Tax incentives are also an important tool all communities have to help generate new economic development. These incentives have been used in Cape for many different projects over time. Please go to to see an interactive map and more information of all current city taxing districts.


The most recent project involving incentives is the mall redevelopment project. Final approvals for the development agreement were made on October 16—the major terms of the $104 million agreement include private funding of approximately $55 million, and an incentives package of approximately $49 million. This package includes Tax Increment Financing (TIF) of $18 million, a Community Improvement District (CID) to generate $18 million, and Transportation Development District (TDD) to generate $13 million.


Important points in the Mall Redevelopment Agreement include:

  • TIF, CID, and TDD revenues may only be used for reimbursements of costs relating to the mall and its lot, not to the outlying parcels.
  • TIF, CID, and TDD revenues will not take away from current funding for local City services, and are projected to greatly add to that funding over time.
  • The agreement stops the impact of the mall’s plummeting property value. Taxing districts will be “made whole” if assessed values drop below initial assessments.
  • If the mall is sold within 10 years, the agreement would require a share in incentives proceeds to go back to the City and various other taxing districts.
  • The mall redevelopment project satisfies the “but for” clause required by the State of Missouri, meaning redevelopment at this scale would not happen without these incentives.


If it once again becomes a prominent regional attraction, the mall will be an important piece of the City’s economic development portfolio, since it contributes to jobs, quality of life issues, and tax revenue to the City that contributes funding for essential services. Our critical city functions of police, fire, street and park maintenance in the General Fund are supported primarily by general sales taxes. This is how the City pays employees and provides annual department expenses, necessary supplies and equipment.


There is an important relationship between the health of the retail economy and that of the city government. Retail is not the only sector that is needed for economic health, however. Tourism, education and workforce training, industrial growth, and housing are just some of the other sectors that contribute to that health as well. It is incumbent upon the City of Cape to use these incentives as a way to encourage strategic development, while ensuring there is overall benefit to the city and the community at large.



All of the City’s key focus areas in this State of the City series (infrastructure, safety, and economy) impact each other and our daily quality of life. Just as a growing economy creates jobs and supports essential services, a safe and vibrant city attracts people, businesses, and industries that provide that growth.


Economic vitality in our city and region depends on sound strategies and productive partnerships. The City is eager to work more closely with our city and regional partners in both the private and public sectors—to fully realize the potential and opportunities we all see here in this great City of Cape Girardeau.