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MRPC Supporting Work Ready Communities Initiative

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) became an employer partner of the Missouri Work Ready Communities initiative, a program designed to help job-seekers find employment and employers find the right workers for the job. The MRPC board authorized the signing of a partnership letter to show the organization’s support of the program at its Oct. 11 meeting.
“I see this working well with our enhanced enterprise zones (EEZs),” MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge said. “That’s where they are looking to bring in new jobs, and expanding jobs, and this would give them something to show that our workforce is a bit elevated.”
The MRPC board took the action after hearing a presentation by Mary Tellarico and Cheri Tune, of the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Division of Workforce Development. According to Tellarico, Missouri is one of four states out of 25 applicant states chosen by American College Testing (ACT), which is administering the program, as a pilot state.
The program tests job-seekers and other members of the workforce for skill sets and then issues certifications based on the individual’s assessment scores, allowing the job-seeker to give potential employers a concrete analysis of their skill set. The testing is already available at multiple locations within the Meramec Region such as Missouri Career Centers and Linn State Technical College. Job-seekers may take the test twice at no charge.
In addition to giving tools to the job-seeker, counties may apply to become a Certified Work Ready Community. To become certified, the county must meet certain goals, including certifying a certain percentage of the workforce and meeting goals as to how many businesses are partnering with the initiative, like MRPC. Other businesses in the Meramec Region partnering with the initiative include Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Tacony and Quaker Windows and Doors.
These businesses will, when applicable, prefer to hire individuals certified through the program and encourage applicants to pursue the testing process.
For more information about the Missouri Work Ready Program, visit workready.mo.gov or contact the MissouriDepartment of Economic Development.
In other business, the MRPC board:
·  Approved a letter supporting the reinstatement of the Small Business Administration refinance program. Hundreds of business owners submitted applications to have their SBA loans refinanced including three prepared by MRPC staff, and the applications were never reviewed. SBA explained they did not have the manpower to review all the applications by the program’s Sept. 27 expiration date. MRPC would like to see the program reinstated as part of the SBA 504 program because the refinancing typically reduces a business’s debt service, giving them more cash to invest in the company and to hire employees.
· Approved the Meramec Region Transportation Advisory Committee’s (TAC) recommendations for priority transportation projects in the region. The TAC re-affirmed that corridor improvements to Highways 63 and 50 are the region’s top priorities. The board also approved MRPC applying for a non-infrastructure Safe Routes to Schools grant that would provide expert analysis of school bus loading zones and coordination of walking school bus programs.
· Began identifying federal legislative priorities in the region. Congressional leaders and their staff are invited to the MRPC meeting in January.
· Learned that an engineering management class at Missouri University of Science and Technology is looking for a community to focus on during the spring semester. The class will help the community identify possible improvement projects, make recommendations as to how to achieve the project goals and provide cost estimates.
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 27, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

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