Ever wonder what it is that the Rolla Regional Economic Commission does?


Ever wonder what it is that the Rolla Regional Economic Commission does?
“The RREC is there to bring in new jobs and new investment,” Elizabeth Bax, the executive director, said as a matter of factly. This can be difficult at times.
“Make no mistake, we are under siege on that point,” Bax said at the Dec. 12 meeting, stressing that the RREC needed to do everything it can to be helpful in expansion and retention.
The group founded originally by people who were concerned about the number of children in the free and reduced lunch programs in Rolla’s Schools, according to Bax.
“People were hurting due to a lack of prosperity and opportunity,” Bax said.
From that simple premise, the RREC, a not-for-profit corporation, has grown into a 19-member board; members range Ward 4 Councilman Lou Magdits, St. James Mayor Dan Wilson, Missouri S&T, and local businesses such as Brewer Science and Mike Woessner of Investment Reality.
Bax, who is in her third year as the executive director, and had her contract renewed last month, puts her role in simple terms.
“I cultivate relationships with outside governments, federal and state and with different private industry,” she said.
Bax, is a conduit, the middle person between the city and the outside world to make connections and help along projects, which the RREC has over 20, as of the last meeting.
Bax is not, however, on her own on when it comes to the direction she takes in cultivating relationships.
“Once the board reaches a consensus, I communicate that,” Bax said. The board members, which have a financial stake in RREC, meet once a month to discuss current and upcoming projects.
According to Woessner, the President of Investment Reality, his dues were $3,900. At the December RREC meeting, Bax informed the board that annual dues would be $3,800 annually, starting in 2010. The City of Rolla also provides $115,000 annually.
The cultivation she is referring to is bringing in new businesses to the area, which in return, bring more jobs.
“Folks have approached the university wanting to establish companies,” said Keith Strassner, Director of Technological and Commercial Development and Missouri S&T.
Strassner, who sits on the RREC board, said he has seen what development can occur with the help of RREC.
He highlighted the General Electric Aviation Project as one example.
In January, GE announced S&T would be the home to the University Development Center. Strassner estimated that 50 to 100 jobs could be created in the next few years. Currently, there are about half a dozen, according to Strassner.
Strassner also hinted a few other projects that were in the works, but could not give details since deals have not been finalized.
“The university is an engine to create better products,” Bax said.
She heavily emphasized the role that the university could have in Rolla’s future development.
Bax gave a presentation to the City Council at it’s Nov. 3 meeting, offering a glimpse of what could be in store with improvement to the University Technology Park.
“This has the potential to generate $1 billion in new revenue,” Bax told the council at the meeting.
The lease agreement has not been finalized, but at the council meeting Bax estimated that the park could create 1,200 new jobs, based on McEagle Properties, LLC building a 37,000 square-foot office building.
“For our company to grow, the community needs to grow,” Woessner said last week. To him, the purpose of RREC is to improve the quality of life in Rolla.
“If they pay me, I feel a commitment to return the value, return the investment to the people,” Bax said.