A delegation of more than 300 people traveled to Jefferson City this week to connect with legislators and make known the concerns of northwest Missouri to those who help create laws governing the state.

In all, 313 people representing one of 17 communities within the region, participated in the Great Northwest Day at the Capitol. There were 18 people from Chillicothe and Livingston County attending.

The northwest Missouri region has a population of around 300,000 people, just a small fraction of the state’s approximate 6 million inhabitants. Great Northwest Day at the Capitol’s goal is to unify and enhance the region’s image in Jefferson City and to pursue issues and legislation beneficial to the region.

Steve Holt, director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Chillicothe, is treasurer for the Great Northwest group and coordinator for Livingston County.  

“It is important for us to act regionally and represent ourselves regionally,” Holt said.

Great Northwest Day at the Capitol is considered by many legislators as one of the top three events taking place at the capitol each year, Holt said. While the event gives veteran legislators the opportunity to visit with northwest Missouri delegates, it also is beneficial for freshmen legislators.

“It’s a great way for them to get educated about rural issues,” Holt said.

The day began with a visit to the Missouri House and Senate. The luncheon provided an introduction and discussion of the region’s top five issues, as well as comments from guest speakers. The five issues were: 1) drought mitigation and response; 2) transportation infrastructure and funding; 3) rural economic development; 4) K-12 and higher education funding; and 5) solid waste management districts.

Speakers were Dave Nichols, chief engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, Chris Chung, chief executive officer for Missouri Partnership (discussing economic development), and Sarah Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, discussing drought mitigation and response.

Several roundtable discussions took place in the afternoon, before the traditional evening event held Mardi Gras style. The event included booths showcasing the region’s communities. There were around 500 people attending, including 85 state representatives and a couple senators. The senate delegation was small due to conflicts when the senate was called back into session.

The Great Northwest Day concluded the following morning with a breakfast gathering featuring James Moody, of James R. Moody and Associates. Moody, who had been state budget director during the 1990s, provided a budget overview and expressed concerns about legislators having limited funds to work with and the inability to increase revenues.

In addition to Chillicothe and Livingston County, participating (sponsoring) communities were: Andrew County, Atchison County, Bethany/Harrison County, Brookfield/Linn County, Caldwell County, Cameron/DeKalb County, Clinton County, Daviess County, Gentry County, Grant City/Worth County, Marceline/Linn County, Maryville/Nodaway County, Mercer County, St. Joseph/Buchanan County, Sullivan County, and Trenton/Grundy County.

The local effort’s participation in Great Northwest Day was promoted through the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Chillicothe and the Greater Chillicothe Visitors Region.

The issues:

Drought Mitigation and Response: Northwest Missouri continues to be impacted by a significant drought event. The lack of adequate rainfall has not only damaged the local agriculture economy, but is beginning to threaten public water supplies, particularly those that rely on shallow ground-water wells or small surface reservoirs. We encourage the Missouri Legislature to expand programs designed to provide access to affordable, abundant water in times of drought or other water emergency.

Transportation Infrastructure and Funding: The Missouri Legislature must work together to build a stronger, more viable economy in northwest Missouri, and a sound transportation network is key to achieving this objective. A reliable transportation system is essential for the distribution of goods and services, increased socio-economic opportunities, improved mobility, the delivery of labor, and emergency response. It also creates a stronger competitive base from which to grow and attract businesses to northwest Missouri. We encourage the Missouri Legislature to consider initiatives that support these needs.

Economic Development: Economic Development is a vital effort in supporting and enhancing the general financial health of our communities. GNW supports the proposed "Compete Missouri Legislation" which will provide enhanced tools for our communities to retain and attract businesses. We additionally support efforts to properly balance the rules dealing with Environmental Assessments for projects and Enhanced Enterprise Zones to enable smaller communities to compete effectively without undue regulatory red tape.

K-12 and Higher Education Funding: Adequate and sustained funding of our public educational institutions is a keystone to the success of our region. The core and capital needs of our educational institutions are at a critical point and we support the legislature attending to these needs. We also support the adoption of a proposed higher education funding formula which is fair and balanced for our local institutions.