$1M gift aims to establish permanent Tri-State Development Summit at Culver-Stockton College

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 2:56 PM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - CANTON, Mo. -- Local entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas A. Oakley has long been a proponent of regional cooperation. With a $1 million gift to Culver-Stockton College announced Wednesday, Oakley hopes a coalition based on advancing tri-state interests will continue long into the future.

The college on Wednesday revealed the establishment of the Tri-State Development Summit at Culver-Stockton College with the support of Oakley’s donation.

“My goal and our hope is that we all of a sudden re-establish and reinvigorate the concept of the summit, and that we fund it in such a way that we can not only continue but have a much stronger organizational structure than we have had in the past,” Oakley said.

The new organizational structure will include an annual meeting to be sequentially held in each of the three states, and will rebuild the task forces for transportation, Mississippi River issues, education, agriculture, tourism, workforce development, connectivity, housing, and other vital areas in order to grow the economies of the entire region.

“We are proud to partner with Tom Oakley, who has been involved in tri-state economic development projects, particularly infrastructure and transportation, for over 60 years, to serve as the administrative home for the Tri-State Development Summit,” said Culver-Stockton President Douglas B. Palmer. “Together, we are committed to bringing together the people and the resources within our region to re-create and restore the Tri-State Summit organization to its original model for economic development in this 36-county, three-state area of Northeast Missouri, Western Illinois and Southeastern Iowa.”

The original and continued intent of the Tri-Summit Development Summit is to speak with one voice to three governors, six U.S. senators, five U.S. representatives and all the state and local elected officials in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

“We have made remarkable improvements in regional transportation,” Oakley said. “We have made huge progress on the river.”

The Summit was established in 1996, following the 1993 flood on the Mississippi River that resulted in the bridge at Hannibal being closed for 76 days and the bridge in Quincy being closed for 72 days. Oakley said a group of regional leaders came together at Culver-Stockton College to express a “collaborative vision.”

“These closures demonstrated the dependence of the region on the river,” Oakley said. “The mission of the summit was to ensure that our entire region work together to address the issues that would allow the entire, approximate 100-mile circle of the tri-state region to grow and thrive economically.”

But Oakley said a lack of funding and the loss of many of the summit founders has led to a decline in task force efforts.

Over the years, speakers have included U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-IL, and Charles Grassley, R-IA; U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO; and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-IL.

Palmer believes the establishment of the Summit at Culver-Stockton will provide focus to drive positive change.

“Leadership from higher education institutions will join with economic development organizations, along with a select group of advisers, and specialists in various key areas, that are seeking economic growth in our region,” Palmer said. “We will be working together to create a pipeline for workforce development initiatives and long-term economic enhancements.”

Palmer said the Summit will provide opportunities for student involvement.

“The college has for a long time been committed to experiential learning,” he said. “We know that our students need to learn in the community, not just in the classroom, to become part of the community.”

He said community and industry leaders will help outline priorities for the Summit task forces. He called the gift “transformational.” It will provide for a full-time executive director who will serve as the key management leader responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the Summit.

“The impact of this gift by Mr. Oakley cannot be overstated,” said Palmer. “What we are creating here is a unique partnership that brings together experts across disciplines and multiple state and county lines in order to make a real, collective impact that will benefit not one of us, but all of us; building a level of distinction for our region that we believe will unlock opportunities for this generation and the next as we tap into the investments of education, community and economic development, infrastructure, policy research and so much more all while addressing the important issues facing our area.”

The Tri-State Development Summit at Culver-Stockton College is conducting a search for an individual to serve as the executive director. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Culver-Stockton College Vice President for Advancement and Marketing Leslie Payne at LPayne@culver.edu.

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