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story.lead_photo.caption Backers of a proposed Missouri River port in or near Jefferson City are working to advance the project. Photo by Julie Smith / Fulton Sun.

The Heartland Port Authority Board on Tuesday approved an agreement to have the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce continue providing professional services to the board.

The agreement extends through the end of 2020 and on a month-to-month basis until a new agreement is reached. It means the chamber will continue to complete administrative tasks as required by the Missouri Department of Transportation for all port authorities, including recording and maintaining all financial transactions for the port authority.

MoDOT awarded the Heartland Port Authority $29,000, and $25,000 of that goes to the Chamber of Commerce under this agreement. The remaining $4,000 can be used by the Port Authority as the board sees fit.

Chamber Director of Economic Development Missy Bonnot told the board work should be done next week on a market study and business development plan paid for with a $183,700 grant from the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority.

Board Chair Rick Mihalevich said the Missouri Port Market Study and Business Development Plan — being assembled by Iowa-based Decision Innovation Solutions — will look at what agricultural products could be enhanced by the operation of the port and propose a business development plan to assist in the marketing of the port.

Cole County Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle said Cole County, through its contracted economic development entity, Victory Enterprises and Strategic Capital Consulting, has been considering finding a person who would be fully engaged to work for a port as well as the economic development that is possible through the Jefferson City Memorial Airport.

Mihalevich, who also is a member of the Jefferson City Council, said the board wants to hire someone to that type of position but the direction they've been moving is to get the land for the port first.

Bills sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and state Rep. Rudy Viet, R-Wardsville, are moving through both chambers his legislative session. The legislation would transfer 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility in Jefferson City to the Heartland Port Authority.

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