In 1993, flooding on the Mississippi River wreaked havoc in the Midwest. As rising water closed bridges, highways, railways and barge traffic, the tri-state area of Northeast Missouri, Southeast Iowa and Western Illinois learned that a common transportation network was the lifeline of their economies. “Our tri-state region shares a common workforce. We utilize area educational and healthcare facilities, we exchange goods and services, we depend on rail, river and roads to move products and people in and out of our region,” said Jim Mentesti, president of Great River Economic Development Foundation in Quincy, Illinois. “The flood proved how much we need to work together.”

Born of the need to cultivate working relationships beyond state boundaries, a committee of five organized the first Tri-State Development Summit in 1996. “Our first objective was simply to assemble, get to know one another, and define common issues,” said Tom Boland, former chair of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission from Hannibal, Missouri. “The summit has since evolved from an annual networking and educational event into an ongoing economic development initiative.” The summit now serves over 600,000 people throughout the 35-county tri-state region.

Nearly 225 people attended the first summit on the campus of Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri in October 1996. The next two summits in Keokuk, Iowa and Quincy, Illinois grew by 100 attendees each year, and the 1999 summit in Hannibal, Missouri attracted 450. After an eighteen-month recess, the summit hosted a record 475 people in Burlington, Iowa on May 31, 2001. In 2003 the summit returned to Quincy and in 2007 it returned to Culver Stockton College. The last summit was held on October 5, 2011, in Quincy, Illinois.

The summit draws a diverse crowd of elected officials, community leaders, CEOs, economic developers, bankers, educators, transportation and tourism representatives and the Army Corps of Engineers.