Scott Drachnik, president of the Economic Development Center of St. Charles County, gave a public presentation to the County Council on Monday, Dec. 21, as a scheduled item in the council’s final meeting of calendar year 2020.
While acknowledging the difficulties of 2020, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, Drachnik stressed that the county is in a good financial and economic position, both in comparison to the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area and to the nation as a whole. Drachnik particularly stressed the 3.1% unemployment rate in the county and reminded those assembled that this rate stood at 9.6% in April.
Regarding a comprehensive plan fashioned by the Economic Development Center in the past year, Drachnik emphasized that the county is not attempting to attract retail and outlet center activity. Those projects are largely transitory in nature, he noted, and do not offer the type of robust growth and jobs that the county hopes to develop. Instead, the plan calls for building an advanced manufacturing base, a transportation hub, a financial services sector and a strong institutional technology division. Drachnik also spelled out the need for a growing county tax base and job creation that offers opportunity to talented people, so they will stay nearby and work in the area. Drachnik said all of this is conditioned on local businesses making profits, thus leading to the investment that is necessary.
Drachnik said 63 projects are currently in operation. He broke those down to 47% manufacturing operations, 23% technology and/or biosciences, and 13% warehousing and distribution industries. The remaining are operations not fitting those previously mentioned categories.
Regarding plans for 2021, Drachnik stressed the need to rebuild his own team after the ravages of the pandemic, and to rely on a web-data driven approach for future development.
He conceded that the pandemic had temporarily stymied St. Charles County economic development, just as it did everywhere else, but also pointed out that the county has 1,634 new single-family homes under construction, which is a four-year high. This is good news by any standard, Drachnik said. He finished with a flourish, stating for the record, that economic conditions across eastern Missouri will be “bumpy” for the first two quarters, but that the third and fourth quarters of 2021 will, “… take off like a supersonic rocket.”
In a press release issued on Jan. 6, Drachnik noted that none of the EDC’s small business incubator tenants closed in 2020.
“Rather, we gained new tenants and saw existing ones expand as they learned to pivot for success during the pandemic,” Drachnik said. “Our 504 loan program was ranked No. 1 in the St. Louis region by the local media and the loans we closed in 2020 surpassed our budget projections for the year.”
According to Drachnik, the EDC’s business attraction efforts also exceeded performance from the previous five years.
The release pointed out that Gov. Mike Parson visited the area in 2020 to help celebrate the opening of Digican Printing and “its new $8 million investment in the city of St. Charles.”
Acknowledging the EDC’s 30-year anniversary, which occurred in 2020, the release pointed to the organization’s six core services to the community: business attraction, retention and expansion; business financing; business incubation; business counseling and training; community marketing; and public policy efforts.
The release echoed Drachnik’s comments before the council, noting that the EDC’s business attraction efforts going forward will be focused on advanced manufacturing; transportation, logistics and distribution; financial services; information technology; healthcare services; and entrepreneurship.