This feature is a sidebar to the June 2022 cover story.

Boone Electric Cooperative doesn’t serve the Business Loop in Columbia, Missouri, but it’s investing heavily in its economic fortunes.

The footprint of Boone EC’s headquarters is adjacent to the Loop, a long-neglected commercial corridor in downtown Columbia that’s staging a comeback as a DIY hub for entrepreneurs, leveraging its status as a voter-approved taxing district.

“The Loop has been our home since 1952,” says Ryan Euliss, Boone EC’s chief finance officer and treasurer of the Business Loop Community Improvement District (CID). “We have a very large interest in the district and taking care of it.”

That includes a $35 million renovation of Boone EC’s headquarters, a huge project that involves demolition or construction of 11 buildings. Expected to finish this fall in time for the co-op’s annual meeting, the campus will boast state-of-the art buildings with a more inviting street presence, warehouses for trucks and large equipment, and a community room.

The directors weighed their options—remodel the existing buildings or build a new complex farther out in its service area. But they decided to stay in the old Interstate 40 corridor that now sits off I-70, Euliss says.

“It’s a huge investment, but it’s going to be great for the community. We decided it was more important for us to make a commitment to the community and stay right where people have been used to seeing us.”

The co-op’s decision to stay in the Loop sends a strong message that an “institutional member” of the community has faith in the area, says Carrie Garner, the CID’s executive director.

“You can tell an area is failing when the big property owners start moving out,” she says. “But they’re not. They’re doubling down on their investment in the property and the area. It says to the rest of the folks here in Columbia that if Boone Electric is staying, then it’s a safe investment for me as well.”

Other co-op contributions included leasing a vacant lot to the CID for a Community Pop-Up Park, a bustling 45-by-70-foot area with food trucks and art spaces. And as one of seven board members, Euliss helps lobby state legislators for funding.

“Our community goes beyond just an electric meter at the business or the house,” he says. “It’s where those people shop, live and drive and the businesses that support them.”