Wed, 30 May 2012 04:07:14 GMT — Just when you think it's dead, it's back. The dream of building a conference center in Jefferson City took a big hit when voters in February rejected a half cent sales tax. At a city council work session Tuesday evening the council moved forward with a new plan for private development of a scaled-back project. After a number of town hall meetings, Mayor Eric Struemph says a conference center is still the top priority for the city. The council recommended the city staff start shopping proposals to large hoteliers, to see if anybody would be interested in building a hotel next to a conference center. It's an idea nearly 25 years in the making, and Struemph still thinks a conference center will be a driving economic flagship in the capital city, â??I think we could build a conference center with 30,000 to 40,000 square feet, which would be funded with a roughly $6 to 8 million dollar bond, which could be generated with money that currently comes in from our lodging taxâ??. That's a far different plan than what was proposed earlier this year, when a $30 to $40 million dollar facility was nixed by voters. Struemph said, "It would really depend on what the private sector come back with at this time, in order to build a facility next to someone or possibly at a new facility. We'll just have to wait to see where that facility is. It would obviously have to be in the Jefferson City limits". Struemph said the city would build the conference center, private money would build the hotel, and the private investors would take all of the risk. An economic impact study that done about 20 years ago paints an even better picture according to the mayor, "...and even the direct impact of just the conference center itself of $700,000 in the city, and $2.1 million in the county, right now, let's face it...our local economy could use those jobs". The mayor says politics, not economics have doomed past projects. He says the difference now is that they are first defining what they can afford, where other plans started with what they wanted.
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