(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) On Tuesday, supporters of the development of the Ag Expo complex just east of St. Joseph announced a new $1.9 million capital campaign. They say the funding would help them complete the purchase of land as well as finish grading work for the site.
The Ag Expo would be the centerpiece of a recently completed $5 million interchange built on Highway 36. MoDot put up most of the money for its construction through an Economic Development grant.
Donors to the project have remained patient as the site for the complex remains idle and those behind the project still have big dreams.
"There is tremendous opportunity for events to happen here," said Donald Miller, a member of the Ag Expo board. "We can't even imagine all there can be."
Talks of an Ag Expo Center in St. Joseph have been going on for 11 years. The construction of the interchange and related roadways took 12-18 months longer than expected and fundraising at times has also been slow. Ag Expo staff and board members hope this next step in the development of the facility will help kick-start interest.
"It's taken a lot longer than we thought it would take," said executive director Jerry Sprong. "Some of the costs we incurred were a lot larger than we thought they'd be. We're behind all of that now. Now we're going forward with the actual construction process."
In all, the Ag Expo Center is around a $60 million project. Supporters say that cost will be offset by jobs created by development around the complex as well as the $54 million in yearly economic impact supporters say events at the Ag Expo would bring to the city.
"It's something like $17 million that leaves our community each year for events going to Omaha or Des Moines or Sioux City," Sprong said. "This will bring all those funds back into our community."
The Ag Expo is designed to be a state-of-the-art complex and multi-purpose campus offering facilities for ag education, research and exhibitions.
"Machinery shows, trade shows, it's unlimited the amount of people looking to have shows," Miller said. "This place could even be big enough for a tractor pull."
Nobody associated with the Ag Expo thought turning the idea into a reality would be easy. However, they say they are unswayed by the delays and committed to its completion.
"If it was easy, everyone would be doing it," Miller said.
Sprong says if fundraising goes well grading on the land should begin before the end of the year. Some hope that the entire complex could be completed in the next 4-5 years.