Mehaffy started work in Hannibal on Jan. 2

Corey Mehaffy has been on the job for less than a month as the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council's executive director, but he's already making a positive impression.

"So far, I have been very impressed with his progress," said Heath Hall, general manager of the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW), during the Jan. 21 HBPW Board meeting. "I'm pretty sure he's going to quickly elevate what the NEMO EDC has been for us. I'm excited about that."

The head of the HBPW, which contributes $60,000 a year to the NEMO EDC, is not alone in his enthusiasm for Mehaffy, who started his new job in Hannibal on Jan. 2.

"The city of Hannibal is very excited about the future of economic development," said Hannibal Mayor James Hark when Mehaffy was hired in early December. "Corey brings a very strong portfolio and a demonstrated performance record which meet the objectives and goals of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council."

Hal Benedict, president of the NEMO EDC and chairman of the search committee, is also upbeat.

"Corey's experience and connections throughout the country have brought many projects to central Missouri," he said. "The board is impressed with Corey's development of entrepreneurial programs and building relationships with existing companies."

Mehaffy had served as president of the Moberly Area Economic Development Corporation (MAEDC) for almost 11 years before deciding to move to America's Hometown. During that time, more than 30 industrial projects were announced that included over $100 million in capital investment. Those projects generated more than 1,100 jobs. Mehaffy also had a hand in a number of retail, commercial and entrepreneurial projects.

“I really enjoyed the projects with the local entrepreneurs,” he said. “It was exciting to assist people in transitioning

from the idea phase to market.”

Mehaffy listed as one of his favorite projects the creation of the MFA Oil Business Support Campus. “That significant investment was the culmination of a lot of hard work from a group of people dedicated to overcoming a failed project,” he said.

When it was announced that the executive director position with the NEMO EDC was opening, Mehaffy was intrigued.

"There are a lot of great things happening in Hannibal, and there seems to be a real excitement in the community, including a desire to see the community grow," he said. "I spoke with site selection consultants about the region and they see an opportunity for growth."

A low light was when a proposed Mamtek sucralose production project failed to materialize. Mehaffy declined to comment on the project. Bankruptcy trustee Bruce Strauss and former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole and his wife Nanette Cole recently filed a settlement that may end the saga after creditors forced the company into bankruptcy in late 2011 and facility construction halted.

Mehaffy sees a strong similarity between where the NEMO EDC is today and were the MAEDC was when he started work a decade ago.

"I see a tremendous opportunity for growth, and I am excited to work with our partner organizations and other stakeholders to help make the Hannibal region a better place to live, work and play," he said.

After submitting his resignation to the MAEDC, Mehaffy drafted a 45-day action plan that he submitted for review to members of the NEMO EDC.

"The plan included completion of a comprehensive assessment of the NEMO EDC economic development activities," he said. "The goal is to complete the analysis and provide the NEMO EDC board and other stakeholders with a prioritized list of components needed to implement an aggressive economic development program."

Mehaffy also reached out to more than 1,600 site consultants and brokers around the country, providing them with information regarding the region's labor force and local buildings/sites that are available.

Mehaffy said Hannibal offers a lot that site consultants and brokers are looking for, "including a skilled workforce, excellent transportation assets and a centralized location" that he pointed out is accessible by river, rail, four-lane highway and air.

Mehaffy will be on the lookout for positive additions to the local economy. "As we work with the NEMO EDC Board to build a marketing plan, we will include aggressive efforts for both industry and retail," he said.

Among Hannibal's most marketable industrial properties is the former Buckhorn Rubber building that now stands empty. Mehaffy, who has already spoken with representatives of the company that owns the site, said the NEMO EDC is “actively marketing” the location.

“I have reached out to a number of developers whose business model is to purchase industrial facilities, make any needed improvements and actively seek new tenants for the facilities,” he said.

On a larger scale is finding an occupant(s) for the Hannibal Lakeside Technology Park, located in western Hannibal at the intersection of Shinn Lane and Highway MM.

According to Mehaffy, the site has recently been submitted as a potential location for several statewide projects.

“I look forward to working with the city of Hannibal and the Hannibal Board of Public Works to find creative ways to differentiate this site from others in the state and to market those strategic advantages,” Mehaffy said.

While Mehaffy will be focused on attracting new commercial and industrial businesses to Hannibal, he recognizes the importance of retaining those that are already here.

“I agree that retention is a critical component of economic development and an aggressive business retention and expansion program is critical to support our existing employers,” he said. “I have already reached out to many of our employers to set meetings to discuss how NEMO EDC can support their efforts.”

Mehaffy's economic development efforts will not end at the Hannibal city limits.

“We will focus on the region,” he said. “Site selection consultants and corporate real estate reps tell us that companies don't see boundaries like city, county or  even state lines; rather they focus on a region of the country that makes sense for their investment.”

danny.henley@courierpost.com