Chillicothe - Homegrown Tools

Chillicothe, MO

Updated: 2022

Upon learning that its major employer will be closing, civic leaders in Chillicothe band together to save a correctional facility that has become a valuable part of this town’s economic and civic life.

Median Household Income2020$45,496
Poverty Rate 202016.0%
Proximity to Urban Center 90 miles to Kansas City, Mo.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 40 miles
Case Study Time Frame 2004-2006
Municipal Budget proposed FY202215.5 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
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Chillicothe, located in north central Missouri, is at the heart of the heartland, a vast, rolling landscape of soybean, corn and wheat fields. Faced with the prospect of losing 200 well-paying jobs from their community, Chillicothe came together, got aggressive and offered an alternative. The result of this layoff aversion strategy to save the Chillicothe Women’s Prison is a net gain of 250 jobs (above the 200 existing ones) and $10 million in additional payroll. “Chillicothe is the place to emulate in central Missouri,” said Karen Dabson from the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


In cases of layoff prevention, a community must organize quickly, be aggressive and offer a viable alternative. In Chillicothe, Mayor Rodenberg called his core team together on the afternoon of the governor’s announcement. Rather than allow valuable time to waste, the town initiated an aggressive lobbying campaign within days of learning that the prison was slated for closure. These early and aggressive efforts helped convince the governor’s office that Chillicothe was committed to keeping the prison in town. In addition, rather than take a defiant stance, Chillicothe crafted a viable alternative for the governor’s office to consider.


Creative community support for an employer can influence strategic management decisions. Even though this is a case in which a public employer is convinced to maintain its presence in a small town, the lesson holds for private employers as well. Strong and unified community support for an employer can influence management decisions. Chillicothe changed the cost-benefit calculation being made by managers in the state capital. By crafting an alternative for the closure – perhaps an alternative that would not have come to light without Chillicothe’s efforts – local residents were able to sway the governor’s strategic decision.