Northwest Missouri civic leaders from more than 15 communities gathered in Chillicothe today (Friday) for a "Make It Happen" Conference, designed to stimulate economic, civic, and industrial development growth. The conference was hosted by CITYMARK, an economic development agency that has been helping small-town communities in the Midwest improve economic growth since 1985.

The day-long conference was held at Days Inn.

The first-of-a-kind conference, sponsored by AT&T and Northwest Missouri State University, was customized to fit needs of small towns and provide specific economic growth information and ideas, while offering the communities an evaluation process plus training programs to stimulate future growth in their areas.

The major panelists in the presentation are Howard McHenry, CITYMARK chief executive officer, and Ed Douglas, CITYMARK president.

The presentation covered 10 specific developmental areas of a community — industrial development, commercial business, health care, education, residential, municipal, transportation, quality of life, leadership development, and general appearance. Civic leaders from the communities were offered methods and programs to attract business, industry, tourism, and civic revitalization, and had an opportunity to evaluate their present community statuses and explore new ways to promote growth.

"We truly believe that a conference of this magnitude will carry a lasting impact on the civic leaders who attend and will help them find ways to greatly improve their economic development," said McHenry. "Having a number of communities at the conference is a first for us because we normally focus our attention on one community at a time."

More information on CITYMARK is available at (use website)

McHenry is the former mayor of Harrisonville, and a longtime automobile dealership owner.

Douglas spent more than three decades in the banking business in the Northwest Missouri area and recently joined CITYMARK as its president, after retiring as chairman and CEO of Citizens Bancshares Bank in Chillicothe. He currently is a certified financial planner and operates Ed Douglas Certified Financial Planning/Consulting.