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Co-Mo Connect is using 360-degree video and virtual reality to capture the attention of investors who are considering setting up shop in Moniteau County.

The new VR experience sees Co-Mo Connect partnering with Golden Shovel Agency to create a series of four 360-degree videos that detail the economic opportunities available in the county and overarching Mid-Missouri region.

The first video launching the project, a virtual familiarization tour of the region, went live last week. Another video released this week shows one of Co-Mo Connect's building sites for sale in Tipton, displaying VR renderings of possible industrial complexes for interested buyers.

Corey ten Bensel, director of member care for Co-Mo Connect, said the idea is to create a "vision" for potential developers, with the end goal being the continued economic development of the region at large.

"From there, we help connect the dots to see if we can get potential manufacturing or investment back into the region to create those jobs," ten Bensel said.

When considering how best to promote the territory, ten Bensel said Co-Mo Connect tried to identify and "raise up" some good locations for investors that would help to bring further economic development to the region.

"We're looking to create jobs, and then also to create additional opportunities in the region," ten Bensel said.

It can sometimes be hard to get developers who decide to place their investment in rural Missouri to take the time to really take in the features of the region, ten Bensel said, so the virtual introduction putting "as many pieces of the puzzle as possible" together without requiring for a high amount of financial investment in physical spaces was a logical move.

The use of such technology can help showcase the region in a cost-saving manner, freeing up finances for other uses instead of constructing a high-dollar industrial space without a company to fill it, ten Bensel said.

The project has been a work in progress since January 2020, he said; the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge, of course, but good planning and collaborations with regional figureheads like Moniteau County Regional Economic Development's Mike Kelley and Boonslick Economic Development Director Gigi McAreavy has made it work.

"Our intent is to support the actions of those folks that are out already doing the work and just creating additional tools for them to be able to advance the cause," ten Bensel said. "It isn't about Co-Mo. It's about us as a community, us as a region, and we felt like this was the best way for us to help move that forward."

As for what's next, ten Bensel said he's a big believer in rural Missouri. He said the region has the building blocks businesses are looking for, especially in a post-pandemic world. The goal at the end of the day, ten Bensel said, isn't to sell property but to create jobs and bring business, improving the quality of life in the region.

"This will take a little bit of time, but it's already generating some really interesting conversations, some really interesting things to look at," ten Bensel said.

More pieces of the project will continue to be posted on Co-Mo Connect's website at mo4biz.com or via social media channels at Missouri For Business. To view Co-Mo Connect's first two videos, visit Golden Shovel's YouTube channel.

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