Monday, April 07, 2008

Poverty to Prosperity

The Missouri Valley Community Action Agency held their first Poverty to Prosperity Summit for two days last week in Marshall, MO (population 12,433). The Agency services seven counties in north central MO that range in size from Chariton County (population 8,438) up to Johnson County (population 48,258). Families below the poverty level in those seven counties ranged from 5% to 12%. I was there to talk to the 200+ in attendance.

Some of the goals of Missouri Valley in putting on the summit were to envision:

1. Communities where poverty is not allowed to exist

2. Communities where all citizens thrive

3. Communities where all citizens of all ages are valued, cared for and healthy

4. Communities led by men and women who understand that community health and prosperity is dependent upon the provision of real opportunities

Among the many different ideas discussed by the participants was the idea of entrepreneurism. A Labor Availability study done in 2005 for West Central MO showed that 37,947 out of 126,278 in the available labor pool have considered starting their own business.

Chariton County, the smallest county of the seven, highlighted a $30,000 revolving loan pool that they’ve targeted to youth entrepreneurs that will be administered by those same youth. One of the entrepreneurs they’ve helped already is 18 year old Kaitlynn Reichert who has started Sycamore Valley Farm Gourmet Cheesecakes.

They’re on the right track toward prosperity by focusing on young entrepreneurs.

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