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Hometown Pride: Darren Burgfeld

Hometown Pride features a person each week who helps make the community better.

Darren Burgfeld grew up in Fruitland and now works in Cape Girardeau as a digital consultant at Element 74. He is the current president of the Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization, which organized Oktoberfest among other projects.

How did you get connected with Uptown Jackson?

My wife and I went to the St. Charles Oktoberfest in 2013, and I came back all fired up wanting to do a local Oktoberfest. So I talked to Rob Foeste, who owns Broadway Biergarten, and he had been talking with Bob Schooley, who up until recently was the president of UJRO.

And Bob said that they did an Oktoberfest in Jackson this year, and I didn’t know that they were doing one. So I wasn’t a part of it that first year, but Bob asked if I was interested in helping out with Oktoberfest in Jackson, and I said “sure.”

So I did that and then they asked if I wanted to help out with the organization, which at that time was in its infancy. It wasn’t a main street organization yet, and they were just getting their feet wet. I fell into the fold there.

I live in downtown Cape, but my heart is in Jackson. I grew up in Jackson and I guess that’s where my family blood lies.

Besides Oktoberfest, what are some things you and UJRO are working on now?

At this stage, planning for the future is what is core to the board. We recently talked to the City of Jackson about funding for next year. We’re very close to being accredited with the Missouri Main Street Connection, but to get to the next step we need to have an actual employee and we need a director.

So we’re trying to plan how to have a steady budget. Oktoberfest is our biggest fundraiser, but if we had crappy weather this weekend that hurts a big chunk of our fundraising. So we’re trying to make a budget work where we can get a director on board, even if part-time.

We spend a lot of time planning for new events to do and new initiatives for uptown, like filling in some vacant businesses. There are some empty windows uptown that we would love to see some new businesses in.

It’s grown into this well-organized team of people that is making some things happen. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of. It’s a volunteer-run organization. Candidly, there is a core group of people that are officers, board members and committee heads that are running things. And we’re building our volunteer base up, but it’s hard to get people to lock in and lock on.

That’s our push now — to build the partnerships and help bring some people on so that when things like Oktoberfest come up, we are not all ready to tear our hair out for those that have hair.

What do you do at Element 74?

My title is digital consultant, and I’ve been here a little over six years. My role has kind of evolved. Originally I was a project manager and overseeing website and digital marketing projects from conception to completion, making sure all the pieces are coming together.

I’ve transitioned to more of a sales role, but I’m still doing some project management. I’m overseeing projects and I’m doing a lot of client meetings. We’re at this stage economically where most businesses know you need a website and a digital presence. If nothing else, it is your virtual business card.

More people are becoming aware of the effect of digital marketing, and the effect of having a mobile-responsive website versus something that has been around for 800 years. So obviously I’m trying to sell them our work, but we’re also consulting and giving advice on the best practices.

At the end of the day, if you sell them a whole bunch of stuff they don’t need, they’re going to hate you for it. Our business is built on relationships and trust, and if the clients can’t trust us then we’re not going to get their business.

Are you involved with anything else in the area?

Yeah, too much stuff. I’ve developed this problem saying no, and it’s something I’ve really been trying to work on. Besides UJRO, I’m involved with Cape West Rotary Club and we have our big radio auction coming up.

I’m also a board member for Levi’s Children’s Charity, which is building Levi’s Adventure Trail. And I do some other volunteering things, like the Read to Succeed program with United Way. I’ve been doing that for five years now, which is a lot of fun.

I have two kids that eat up my time, and I’m a musician. I play with a couple bands, so that’s my stress relief. It lets me cut loose a little bit.

What do you like about this area?
 
Geographically, I think it’s embedded in my DNA to love this area. I went to Germany 11 years ago for a previous job, and I didn’t feel hungry. Most of the week I was there, I just didn’t feel like eating because for some reason I felt so fulfilled in that environment. It make me think why our ancestors crossed the river and said, “this is close enough, let’s just settle here.” It was the rolling hills and the green pastures and such.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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