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Columbia College students present economic development plan on Cuba., Mo., to state officials

Columbia College MGMT 393 Business Information Systems students presented development recommendations for the city of Cuba, Mo., on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 9:30 a.m. in the Lee Room of Dulany Hall on the Columbia College Campus. Invited attendees included Mike Downing, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED); Luke Holtschneider, project manager, DED; Jim Barnett, president of People's Bank, Cuba, Mo.; Mardy Leathers, president of the Cuba Development Group; and Brad Armstrong, area business manager at Missouri Enterprise.

"I am an advocate of service learning and truly feel this is a resource the state of Missouri should leverage in every manner possible," said Assistant Professor of Business Administration Sean Siebert, who teaches the class. "It would be my goal to have all community colleges, colleges and universities partner with communities across the state of Missouri as we have done with Cuba. Service learning truly creates a win/win environment for the students and the community: the students are able to see the real world in action and the community gains detailed analysis and fresh perspectives at no cost."

In response to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's launch of the 2010 Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth this fall, Siebert and Leathers co-authored a white paper on developing a strategic relationship with economic development organizations such as the DED and Missouri institutions of higher education such as Columbia College. The white paper was accepted and is currently available on the Department of Economic Development's website.

Not wasting any time, the students of MGMT 393, taught by Assistant Professor of Business Administration Sean Siebert, a Cuba (Mo.) high school graduate, immediately put the white paper in action and partnered with the community of Cuba. The students focused on six core categories of community development in Cuba and Crawford County: education, marketing, job creation, small business development, the development of a farmer's market and examining business opportunities for the newly created Barnett Business and Technology Park. The students' ultimate goal is to create a blueprint for the Cuba Development Group to use in its strategic planning, sustainability and community development.

Siebert and a MGMT 393 class previously explored Cuba development opportunities and challenges in spring 2010. That class recommended the creation of a farmer's market, an activity and recreation center and other initiatives to improve civic health, engagement and economic opportunity. Private individuals, corporations and officials of Cuba and Crawford County are now exploring these and other options.

Columbia College, a private, regionally accredited, nonprofit institution founded in 1851 in Columbia, Mo., educates more than 29,000 students each year and has more than 67,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit