Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEEDS Symposium brings economic conversations to Southeast

Monday, October 7, 2019
Don Schlagenhauf, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Keynote Speaker addresses household debt levels in the region Thursday, September 26 in Dempster Hall in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Photo by Jelani Days

The first-ever Southeast Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Symposium (SEEDS) was held for students and community members interested in regional and national economic development Thursday, Sept. 26, with discussions ranging from topics from cannabis to infrastructure.

A variety of topics were up for discussion, Department of Economics and Finance Chair David Yaskewich said, and the symposium format invited the audience to talk about the issues with the presenters.

“An audience that participates is a big part of what a symposium is about,” Yaskewich said. “Just like we’ll have speakers present on topics — and these speakers are experts in each of those areas they’ll be coming to present on — we’ll have a good group of members from different segments of the community.”

Multiple sessions were held Thursday, beginning with an exclusive session for Southeast students, followed by discussions centered on local infrastructure and the national and regional economic outlook and forecast. They finished with a luncheon featuring a presentation on household debt levels.

In addition to Southeast students and faculty, he said the audience included non-profits members, private businesses and local governments.

“We like to refer to this event as ‘the meeting of the minds,’” Yaskewich said.

The discussion on local infrastructure was led by Cape Girardeau City Manager Scott Meyer and Jackson Director of Public Works Kent Peetz.

Their presentation looked at the 2017 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave “America’s Cumulative Infrastructure GPA” a D+. The nation, a slide reads, has made “incremental progress toward restoring our nation’s infrastructure. But it has not been enough.”

From there, they evaluated how community members reflected on their own city infrastructure’s well-being.

Another discussion topic was centered around the cannabis business in Missouri.

Associate Kyle Westbrook of HeplerBroom LLC and Principal Adam Prest of Anders CPA + Advisors talked about the legal ramifications of the budding market in the state.

Since voters legalized medical marijuana, questions have arisen, such as how marijuana would impact the workforce, whether it will be nationally decriminalized and how things like distributors and growers will interact with communities.

The aroma associated with smoking marijuana is a potential nuisance, according to presenters. They also talked about the lack of definitive ways to tell if someone is using marijuana.

“There’s no technology out there right now, where if a cop pulls you over and gives you some sort of test,” Westbrook said. “I know that whoever invents that technology is going to be very rich because they’re going to sell it to every police department out there.”

In reference to dealing with the potential effect of marijuana on workers, Westbrook referenced Illinois’ law restricting business owners from firing workers simply for failing a drug test -- they have to prove employees are impaired on the job.

Business Economist and Research Officer Kevin Kliesen of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis talked about the national outlook for the US Economy.

Among the topics he discussed were the conflicting recession probabilities, weakness in manufacturing and uncertainty in China.

Regional economist Charles Gascon of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis discussed the regional economic development and how much slower local growth is than national growth.

Lastly, Don Schalgenhauf and Ryan Mather of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis talked about the role of consumer debt in the economy.

The lecture on household debt focused on categories such as “mortgage debt, credit card debt, student debt and auto loan debt,” Yaskewich said.

Yaskewich said although this is the inaugural symposium, they hope to continue holding it on a year-to-year basis.