What Does Fred Parry Stand For?
Creating Economic Opportunity in Boone County
In the six months since COVID-19 has become a reality in our community, we have seen an economic crisis that doesn’t get much media attention. As a result of dozens of businesses closing and the shutting down of our local hotels, restaurants and other establishments, we have seen a devastating impact on the most vulnerable segment of our population.
At one point during this pandemic, more than 19,000 Boone Countians were without jobs. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 17% of Boone County’s population was already living at or below the federal poverty level. The loss of economic opportunity during this crisis reveals a growing need for community leaders to reevaluate Boone County’s economic engine and direct their collective efforts towards fixing some of the fundamental weaknesses in our labor force.
During my eight years as a volunteer commissioner for the Columbia Housing Authority, I gained a valuable understanding of the circumstances in our community that keep people from rising out of poverty. The lack of economic opportunity in Columbia’s minority neighborhoods tops the list of reasons why people get stuck in the relentless cycle of poverty. The bottom line is that there are too few quality jobs in the heart of our community that don’t require a college education or specialized training. Instead, the majority of workforce opportunities in central Columbia are in the service sector where it’s nearly impossible to earn a living wage. The lack of reliable transportation and affordable childcare makes the situation worse.
For too long, we’ve had locally-elected officials, policy makers and full-time bureaucrats giving lip service to the idea of helping people rise out of poverty. They dream up schemes and blame others when they don’t work. To be honest, not much has changed here since the 1960’s. I’m here today to remind you that actions always speak louder than words. We must use the resources we have to attract sustainable jobs and workforce training to the core of our city. We must repurpose abandoned buildings and vacant properties to bring light manufacturing, assembly, and similar jobs to where our citizens have easy access. Finding innovative partnerships to overcome the barriers of reliable transportation and childcare should be essential elements in this new economic development strategy.
During my eight years volunteering for the Columbia Housing Authority, I worked hard to develop and promote home ownership opportunities for low income families in our community. I led the effort to secure state funding and other resources for the construction of the McBaine Townhomes on McBaine Avenue. People who have studied socio-economic trends will tell you that nothing breaks the cycle of poverty like home ownership. The equity that is built within a relatively short period of time on the ownership of a home is one of the most important factors in changing the odds for a person living in poverty.
Now serving on the Boone County Building Codes Commission, I have a better, deeper understanding of the many barriers that prevent the construction of affordable housing in our community. We must speed up our efforts to help low income families find the path to home ownership. Financial counseling and identifying the barriers that make home construction so expensive are good ways to begin finding hope for our local families. We must also invest in property and infrastructure so that affordable, safe neighborhoods close to good jobs can be built using the model we pioneered with the McBaine Townhomes. Our efforts to do this will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Access to Quality Healthcare
During my 14 years volunteering as a Trustee for Boone Hospital Center, I learned so much about the challenges and burdens that local healthcare institutions encounter in the delivery of healthcare. Most people don’t realize that almost 63 percent of Boone Hospital’s payor mix comes from Medicare. As reimbursement rates have fallen in recent years, hospitals like Boone have made the difficult decision to eliminate less profitable service lines like mental health, rehabilitation and specialties like pediatric intensive care. By bringing control of the hospital back to the citizens of Boone County, Boone Hospital can now find new strategies for treating all patients right here in central Missouri. By stopping the flow of more than $30 million a year to a St. Louis-based healthcare conglomerate, hospital officials can now return their focus to providing affordable and quality healthcare here in Boone County. In addition to supporting local health clinics and community-based health needs, Boone Hospital’s revenues can continue to support the services that are important to the citizens of Boone County.
Creating Bright Futures For Boone County Youth
Growing up in Boone County is a much different experience today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Our kids are constantly exposed to confusing messages about drugs, alcohol, substance abuse as well as new dangers like digital addictions and online predators. In order to help all our children realize their full potential, we need to create and support programs that can give them the goals and the resources necessary to pursue their dreams.
Realizing that a four-year college education is not for everyone, we need to make sure we can provide alternative training and workforce skills for those who are not college-bound. For that reason, I am proud to support Southern Boone County’s efforts to build a campus for Ranken Technical College. What was once a dream is about to become a reality and Boone County children and adults alike will soon have access to job training that will take place on the Ranken campus in Ashland.
This is a key element of diversifying Boone County’s economic engine. We are rightfully proud of the higher education opportunities we have here in Boone County, but we have neglected investments in essential training for technical and vocational jobs. This opportunity to keep and grow a skilled labor force in our hometown means also attracting the kinds of jobs that will make Boone County stronger and more resilient to the changing marketplace.
Getting our kids to the point where they can see the opportunities before them is a process. We have to make sure that the money Boone County is investing in social services is well spent with measurable outcomes that tell us we are on the right track. We have a lot of work to do in this area, but under the right leadership, we’ll see bright new futures for our kids.
The Right Person For The Job
I’ve spent much of the last 25 years volunteering my time and dedicating myself to what makes Columbia and Boone County a great place to live, work, and do business. As small business owners for 25 years, my wife and I understood the important principle of “to whom much is given, much is expected.” As a result, we’ve focused on important efforts like the Food Bank, LOVE, Inc., the Columbia Housing Authority, Pascale’s Pals and In2Action, as well as a wide variety of local arts organizations that add so much to our quality of life here in Boone County.
Our business experience gave us a keen understanding of the struggle and what it takes to keep a business growing. We know what it’s like to create new jobs and economic opportunity. We also understand the sacrifices that are often necessary to keep a business open. It has been disheartening to see longstanding businesses in our community permanently close their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding the way back to our once vibrant economy is going to require that we all work together.
I have a proven track record of being able to bring people together. By sharing a common vision, we will get things done. These are, no doubt, some of the most challenging times we’ve seen. However, based on past experiences, we know that we can all still come together and find common ground so that we can make Boone County an even better place to call home. I’d like to continue my work on behalf of the citizens of Boone County. It has been my highest honor to serve you over these last four years.