Marshall — Embracing the past while keeping both eyes on the future

MissouriLife

By Martin W. Schwartz of Missouri Life Magazine.

When you’re looking at a map of Missouri, the town of Marshall is fairly easy to spot. You’ll find it conveniently located at the crossroads of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

“We’ve worked on several expansions here in Saline County,” says Bill Riggins, executive director of the Marshall-Saline Economic Development Corporation. “We’re seeing people get excited about things moving for- ward, which is kind of unusual for a rural community—so many of them are going the other way.”

conagraThe town was named for US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall shortly after it was selected to be the county seat for Saline County. In the late 1920s and early 30s, Marshall was best known as the headquarters of the Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Company, which, at its peak, built one airplane every day in a factory located on the northwest corner of the town square. Today, that spot is occupied by ConAgra Foods, which employs nearly 1,000 workers, making it the largest employer in the Marshall-Saline area. Cargill Corporation, a case-ready pork and beef facility, employs more than 500 workers.

Because Marshall is a small town—2010 Census figures put the population at 13,065—Riggins says the development corporation was created to serve all of Saline County, which is home to more than 23,000 people—a large labor basin of people who, Riggins says, exhibit an exemplary work ethic.

saline county radius“People who are willing to go to work, go to work,” he says. “Plus we have a good immigration-type work force, too. We’re very welcoming to that type of labor. If you look back, all of us were basically immigrants at one time or another.”

The Marshall Saline workforce was recently recognized by Governor Jay Nixon as a Certified Work Ready Community. More than 40 businesses in Saline County took part in the program that was developed by the American College Testing (ACT) group to assess real workplace level skills.

Marshall is home to Missouri Valley College, a four-year liberal arts college and the Saline County Career Center, which offers training for skilled labor positions for those not seeking a four-year degree.

Jim the Wonder Dog sidebar

Click to read the story of Marshall’s Jim the Wonder Dog.

“There’s been so much emphasis put on going to college for everybody that sometimes we leave out other people who we need in the workforce,” Riggins says. “Everything is so high tech, we need to have kids come out of schools with the skills that employers need.”

In looking to the future, the city of Marshall planned ahead when it developed a wastewater facility that can easily expand its performance based on need.

“We’ve got all kind of capacity there,” Riggins says. “As far as utilities go, we’ve got all kinds of water.”

For business access, Marshall is located just 10 minutes from I-70.

“The last I heard, somewhere around 65 percent of the total economy in the state of Missouri is within 30 minutes either side of I-70,” Riggins says. ”If you want to do a one-day run by truck, you can cover a big part of the economy of the United States.”

Missouri Valley College

Missouri Valley College

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