A Small Community with Much to Offer
With a wink to its charming past and a focus on its bright future, Perryville, Missouri is poised for good things
Perryville is a charming community located in Perry County in southeastern Missouri. Offering a mix of rural beauty and modern amenities, the city is known for its historic downtown, tourist attractions, and vibrant community events, with a diverse economy that includes industries like manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and agriculture. Blending the quaintness of a rural small town with opportunities for residents and visitors to experience its rich history, scenic landscapes, and welcoming community, the city of Perryville has much to offer.
“One of Perryville’s greatest assets is our citizens,” boasts Mayor Larry Riney. “We have hard-working citizens with family values. They like to maintain their homes and keep their community as clean as possible. They enjoy helping not only their families but their fellow citizens. I think that is our greatest asset as far as the city is concerned.”
Gilster-Mary Lee is one of Perryville’s largest manufacturers, with over 1,200 employees. Their presence in the community is largely due to the foresight of the Perryville Development Corporation, an offshoot of the Chamber of Commerce which was formed in the 1950s, during a time when the city was experiencing an economic downturn. City Administrator Brent Buerck explains, “What that group did, is they sold hope to the community. They sold several thousand individual shares for $10 a share into the Perryville Development Corporation, which then went on to create a spec building. Several failed businesses later, the Perryville Development Corporation invested in a startup named Gilster-Mary Lee, which is now one of the largest private food manufacturers in the country, and they opened a factory here in Perryville. So that was a real beginning catalyst for us many years ago.”
Since that time, the Perryville Development Corporation has worked to bring other large manufacturers, including TG Missouri, a tier one auto parts manufacturer that has expanded to 1,700 employees and has over 1.3 million square feet under roof in Perryville today . “There have been other industries and countless companies that we’ve really been blessed with,” Buerck adds.
“Among other things, we’re the number one county in the state of Missouri for hardwood exports. We have very strong natural resources, everything from trees to stone. We have two large stone companies that literally send their products all over the country. One of them, Semco Distributing, recently provided landscape materials for Shaquille O’Neal’s house in Atlanta, so they’re doing some really cool stuff.” The city is also home to Bank of Missouri, a 130-year-old institution who have elected to build their headquarters and remain in the city as they have grown assets to over $2.5 billion. Robinson Construction, a world-class company with major projects throughout the US is also headquartered in Perryville.
Most recently Perryville has welcomed Ranken Technical College, a 25,000-square-foot state-of-the-art workforce development training facility, which will be opening in the fall of 2023. The college will work directly with local industry to train potential employees in everything from manufacturing and production to diesel mechanics, computer technology, welding, and fabrication.
Crystal Jones, Director of the Perry County Economic Development Authority, elaborates, “They have current plans for five training programs they will offer out of that facility, and that is where Ranken works directly with TG Missouri, Glister-Mary Lee, and other local companies to train their workforce.” Perryville also offers a range of other educational opportunities to its residents, such as the Perry County School District’s Career and Technology Center, which provides short-term training programs to address local employment needs. Additionally, the city is home to a satellite campus of Mineral Area College and offers classes through Central Methodist University, while Southeast Missouri State University, a four-year university, is conveniently located just 30 miles to the south.
On the subject of business attraction, Jones says there is a definite need for more retail and restaurants. She admits, “We’ve actually had several retail developers reach out to us looking for land. Locating the right outside developers has been a limiting factor here, as there are plenty of commercial real estate opportunities.” In support of its local small businesses, Perryville has made significant efforts to develop and revitalize the downtown area, creating a thriving city core. “A lot of rural communities our size, we’re less than 10,000 in population, they still struggle with downtown revitalization, but ours has really been revitalized quite nicely,” Jones portrays.
To encourage façade improvements and beautification, the city offers grants and financial support programs through the creation of a downtown TIF district. They also collaborate with the Small Business Development Center and local bankers to provide training, networking, and financing options for entrepreneurs, ensuring a supportive environment for small business growth, as Jones recounts, “We do have some tools here to help small businesses, through the TIF program, and then also through some financing options. If someone is seeking financing, we know which financing institute specializes in certain things. For example, a local bank here is a preferred SBA lender. We also have access to a revolving loan fund program through our local regional planning commission.”
Supporting economic development through infrastructure is also key, as Buerck reports, “We have to provide the infrastructure so they can provide the jobs. You can’t have one without the other.” Currently, the city is investing over $30 million into a new sewer plant, as well as a $3.5 million for road expansion which will allow for further business development along the City’s main commercial corridor in the form of an extension to Progress Drive. Additionally, the community just added two new fire stations, an $8.5 million technical school for Ranken, has jointly contracted with Perry County on a $30 million Joint-Justice Center and is working with MODOT on a $284 million investment will to build a brand new bridge across the Mississippi River, which sees 7000 vehicles per day and connects the cities of Chester Illinois, and Perryville. if that wasn’t enough, the city is also set to construct a new 6,500-foot-long and 100-foot-wide airport runway, replacing what is currently the longest runway in the region between St. Louis and Memphis.
The city’s aviation proud history includes hosting the headquarters of Sabreliner Corporation, known for producing the world’s first twin-engine corporate jet. Today, Perryville’s investment in infrastructure attracts businesses like WestStar Aviation, which has serviced high-profile clients such as Taylor Swift, Troy Aikman, and SpaceX jets, and Helicopter Transport Services, a company who help maintain helicopters used for fighting forest fires out West.“The investments that the board is willing to make into our infrastructure creates the environment where businesses can do what they do on top of it,” Buerck asserts.
On the subject of housing he acknowledges, “You know, Shakespeare said, ‘What is the city but it’s people’, and people are our limiting factor. We’ve had more jobs than people for many years.”
He notes that Perryville is dedicated to addressing this housing shortage in the community, introducing a new incentive program that offers a reimbursement of $15,000 for single-family homes that meet specific criteria, and $3,000 per unit for apartment complexes. Additionally, duplexes receive a higher reimbursement rate of $6,000 per unit. “The mayor and the Board have identified this as one of our biggest challenges as a community. When the housing supply and the supply chain got disrupted, we doubled down and decided we’re going to go all in and try to help spur housing in Perryville,” he relays.
“When we say housing, we need all levels of housing. We need an apartment for that young person looking for their first place on their own, we need starter homes for young married couples and families, and then we need the next size and the next size after that. We could use everything from an apartment to a three-quarter million-dollar home plus.”
In a commitment to sustainability, the city has invested in natural gas vehicles for its public works fleet and has collaborated with Citizens Electric to support the opening of a half-megawatt solar farm which now operates within its limits. Perryville is also pioneering the adoption of electric transportation in the Midwest, working with Beta Technology to install an electric plane charging station at the airport. As well the city EV charging stations have been installed at the airport and the local Holiday Inn, a collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources funded 80% of the project. Additionally, Perryville is addressing environmental challenges and receiving statewide recognition for its efforts.
Buerck relays, “The community has been featured several times for its conservation efforts, including a 2022 feature article in the Missouri Conservationist, published by the Department of Conservation in Missouri. The L-A-D Foundation recently produced a mini-documentary that will show you what we’ve done as a community to address sinkholes, and protect the karst topography, and how we work to keep our groundwater safe. The strides we’ve made over the last three or four decades have been remarkable and we’ve received a lot of accolades for the progress we’ve made as a community.”
A truly remarkable city, Perryville has a long list of highlights that make it an attractive place to live, work and play. Looking towards a vibrant future, Mayor Riney emphasizes that the focus should be on the youth. He conveys, “They are going to be our future, and we want to give them the best opportunities.”
As for other priorities, he says the expansion of the city boundaries and continuous infrastructure improvements are among the goals moving forward. “As far as the future of the city, we want to continue on the path that we’re on now, we want to encourage our young people to carry on our visions and what we hope to be their new visions.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A rural community with major industry and growth
Where: Perry County, Missouri
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