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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Austin HornbostelCongresswoman Vicky Hartzler was in town last Wednesday for the Moniteau County Regional Economic Development Council’s annual meeting. Hartzler spoke to the group about the United States legislature’s ongoing efforts to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The modest group gathered for the Moniteau County Regional Economic Development Council's (MRED) annual meeting, delayed since April due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, was treated to a special guest speaker.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler appeared at the meeting to talk to those present about the efforts in the United States legislature to help businesses like those in Moniteau County during the COVID-19 pandemic and to applaud MRED for its work.

"I mainly just want to commend you," Hartzler said. "You guys are so blessed to have (MRED President) Mike (Kelley) here doing all that you are doing. I wish every community had somebody like Mike and had an organization like you all to help develop it and support the businesses in this area and provide great jobs."

Hartzler said she was pleased to see the work MRED was doing in regards to workforce development in the area.

She expressed there have been many challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she and other lawmakers hope to move forward as soon as possible to keep the people working and businesses afloat.

"Now, we're starting to move toward a new world — I'm not saying that it's over, but we're at a different stage," Hartzler said. "I have been encouraged at the job numbers, with people coming back to work."

In regards to the other official business of the annual meeting, Kelley gave an update on the past year of activity for MRED. The group's continuing programs, like Startup Moniteau, and new ones like Central Missouri Business Leaders have paved the way for growth that Kelley said has been happening for years.

"Over the last four years, I think we've been really getting ourselves on more solid footing (financially)," Kelley said.

The group also accepted its slate of officers for the coming year. Calen Bestgen will serve as chairman, Norris Gerhart will serve as vice-chairman, Sarah Bestgen will serve as secretary and Becky Lawson will serve as treasurer. Jennifer Schmidt, of the City of Tipton; Mac Finley, Moniteau County's presiding commissioner; and Mark Koechner, of Koechner Manufacturing, will serve as the group's executive board members.

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