Former Missouri governor and U.S. senator Christopher “Kit” Bond was honored Wednesday by the Hawthorn Foundation, an organization he founded 35 years ago.

While the Hawthorn Foundation may not be well-known outside of economic development circles, the not-for-profit has played a pivotal role in elevating Missouri’s profile across the world and has been instrumental in creating thousands of jobs in our state.

The organization is a public-private partnership of business leaders and state government officials whose mission is to attract, promote and retain businesses within the state of Missouri.

Among its many important functions, Hawthorn funds domestic and foreign trade missions by Missouri governors to gather ideas and create business opportunities so taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill. Every governor since Bond has collaborated with Hawthorn to grow and transform the state’s economy.

But perhaps the best thing about the organization is that it has remained true to Bond’s vision. Hawthorn was created as and remains a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization.

It is managed by an independent, nonpartisan board of approximately 30 directors — investors who represent many of Missouri’s leading businesses, communities and economic development organizations.

Although Hawthorn was formed to support the work of the governor and the Department of Economic Development, it does not lobby or actively advance any political agenda. Its framework and mission remains the same even as administrations change.

That was Bond’s intention 35 years ago, and the organization hasn’t strayed from that concept, even though most of the rest of politics has disintegrated into bitter partisanship.

Indeed, Hawthorn remains one of the most conspicuous examples of what can be accomplished when talented and dedicated leaders put politics aside and lock arms to achieve a goal.

We are grateful for Bond’s vision in creating Hawthorn and for the leadership he continues to display today. He is a true statesman. He still wears a Missouri pin on the lapel of his suits and is one of our state’s best advocates.