Southern Boone High School’s Future Business Leaders of America helped host the Community Leader Breakfast. Pictured: Alex Rice, Benton Struchtemeyer, Adyn Nichols, Logan Wassmann, Brianna Watson, Emma Glass, Kathy Center, Lauren Winters, Megan Riggs

By: Tara Blue
Appreciation for the past. Gratitude for the present. Optimism for the future.

These were the themes at the Southern Boone Economic Development Council’s Community Leader Breakfast on Thursday, April 18th. Representatives from all realms of the community gathered to discuss investments in education, housing, business & trade, transportation, public safety and more. Before the leaders looked to the future, they recognized those who have been vital to our past.

Appreciation for the past

C.L. Richardson Construction was selected as the first ever recipient of the Economic Development Distinguished Impact (EDDI) award for their contribution to the economic growth and development of Southern Boone County. The Richardson family has been an asset to the community over several decades and is rooted in humble beginnings.

C.L. lost his father at the young age of 16 then briefly served in the U.S. military. After his service time, he returned home to Southern Boone to begin his business. He received a loan from the bank to purchase an old cable CAT and a few cows, and with bold determination, he was on his way.

C.L. became known for his hard work and grit. His excavator business gained loyal clients up and down the Missouri River, as well as a network of contractors and engineers who appreciated his competitive pricing and dependability. He served on the school board and helped secure available funding from the state to help meet the needs of the growing school district. He was also an original investor in Sentinel Lumber and was a long-time board member of South County Bank before it merged with Central Bank, both of which played a big part in the development of Southern Boone.

Over the years, C.L. and his wife Nancy have both remained committed to their family and the community. All four of their children and several grandchildren have worked for the business. Their son Dave and his two surviving sisters Diann Holliday and Debbie Crump still operate C.L. Richardson Construction and the family is actively involved in continuing their services into the future. They are one of the many foundational families which has quite literally built our community up to what it is today.

C.L. Richardson Construction Company was selected to receive the Economic Development Distinguished Impact (EDDI) award. Pictured: Rhonda Wilson, Diann Holliday, Matt Holliday, Dave Richardson, Scott Perry, Debbie Crump, Wyatt Barner, JR Martin.

Gratitude for the present

Several speakers referenced the progress that Southern Boone has made over the past few years which turned it into a highly desirable place to live.

City of Ashland Alderwoman Stephanie Bell noted that Ashland has become the second most populated city in the county, surpassing Centralia in recent years. Bell commended local leaders for recognizing and working to fulfill community needs, such as a demand for trade skills. Bell says residents expressed the desire for technical education years ago and our local leaders have made that a reality. Ranken Technical College in Ashland will hold its ribbon-cutting ceremony this Friday, April 26th at 10am.

Ranken offers Welding & Fabrication, Industrial Maintenance Technology, Carpentry & Building Construction, and Information Technology programs for day and night students. Technical careers are in high demand with highly competitive starting salaries. In 2021-22, Ranken reported a 98% job placement rate, meaning that 98% of the graduates of their programs are employed in their field of study within six months after graduation. Ranken is just one of the opportunities that Southern Boone currently has to help our residents become successful adults and to remain a desirable place to live.

Furthermore, Michelle Hataway, Director of Missouri Department of Economic Development reported that Boone County currently has a 3.3% unemployment rate, which is lower than the national average. She also stated that 50% of the people in Boone County have an education level of bachelor’s degree or higher which is double the national average (

Finally, Ashland City Administrator Kyle Michel says the city has made progress in keeping up with the growing population demands. In 2023, Michel reports that the city issued 53 new residential construction building permits, 5 new construction commercial building permits, and welcomed 18 new brick-and-mortar businesses. Michel says improvements are being made to the city parks and noted the completion of numerous Public Works projects, including the Perry Avenue extension, the South Main Street water main project, and the chip and seal of S. Henry Clay Blvd. Michel says the city has made many improvements over the past few years and has no plans to slow down.

Optimism for the future

In the next fiscal year, Ashland will focus on continued growth and infrastructure investments. Michel reported several new future projects which are currently underway:

  • Founder’s Ridge will bring an additional 60+ single family homes.
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts is under construction and expected to open in June.
  • Setter’s Suites is conducting site development and will add 12,000 sq. ft. of built-to-suit and leasable general commercial space.
  • EmmaLeaf will soon begin construction on their marijuana infusion manufacturing facility in Liberty Square.
  • The streets department has plans to chip and seal several thousands of feet of road deck throughout town.
  • The Board of Aldermen recently approved an agreement with Bartlett & West, our wastewater engineers, to advance the design of our expanded wastewater treatment facility to account for growth expectations for the next 20+ years.

As the City of Ashland prepares for future growth, Boone County is also being proactive to ensure we effectively absorb population growth. Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick expects Boone County to reach between 220,000-250,000 residents before the year 2050 and says that the county is collaborating with all sectors to plan accordingly.

Kendrick cited the new Law Enforcement Training Institute in Columbia as a regional asset to help our public safety officers grow with the demands of the community. He also says the county is emphasizing the need for more affordable housing and is currently conducting a housing study and working with local builders to assess the best way to accommodate the increase of population. The commissioners identified infrastructure as a priority when awarding ARPA funding and cited several recent investments into sustainability projects.

Finally, Columbia Regional Airport Manager Mike Parks says the airport is making changes to adapt to the growing needs of passengers. Parks says American Airlines is adding new routes and larger aircrafts, and they now have a 24-hour maintenance service to keep planes serviced and on schedule. He also reports that a rental car facility is being planned.

Overall, the Southern Boone Economic Development Council Community Leaders’ Breakfast had a great turnout, which is a testimony of everyone’s commitment to the success of Southern Boone. The future of Southern Boone seems bright and in competent hands.

Matt Boyce, Kyle Michel contributed to this article.