What are some of the recent economic development wins in Christian County, and what are you working on next?
When I came on board (a year ago), I was new to economic development, and I learned economic development meant a lot of different things to a lot of people. We really focused in on three different areas: our projects – where the developments happen – government relations and then marketing both Christian County and Show Me Christian County. When I started, we were engaged in six different projects. Since then, we have worked on 14 projects. Four of them have been announced and include 4 by 4 [Brewing Co.], and they’re open, 14 Mill Market, which will be open very soon, Canon Concrete [Co.] in Highlandville, and then Finley River Outpost – it has been delayed but they’re still moving forward. Additionally, five other projects are leads in the pipeline. The other big accomplishment was our partnership with the city of Ozark, Christian County government, Ozarks Transportation Organization [and] Ozark Greenways in applying for and receiving the grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development for the Chadwick Flyer overpass. That is the bike-pedestrian bridge that’s going to go over [Highway] 65 and connect downtown Ozark to downtown Springfield. We’re really excited about that one.
Are there types of developments or projects you are seeking out?
We are trying to figure out industrial areas, light manufacturing. It’s key that whatever businesses are looking here, that it’s a right fit for our community. Right now, some of our projects include some health industry and a hotel. We actually just finished a hotel feasibility study. We are getting that study into developers’ hands. We are really hoping that we can get a hotel and some local tourism assets that will drive people into Christian County and keep them here.
What were some of the takeaways from the study?
They looked at the demand that we currently have from the assets we already have. It’s not looking at future growth. This was the beginning of the year, in January, whenever they really did their analyzing. It was just before the Aetos Center for the Performing Arts opened up, but they looked at (Volleyball Beach Ozark), Sky Bacon (Stadium), which was U.S. Baseball field. They looked at Highlandville’s bike park. It was before 4 by 4 opened up, before the 14 Mill. They looked at the numbers in Springfield, almost the unmet need in Springfield and even in Branson. It’s a 131-page study. They recommended that we have a 95-room hotel in Christian County.
Did the study designate a particular area that would be best?
We had identified five locations that they specifically looked at. The traffic counts along 65 and along 160 in Nixa, both of them are sufficient for a hotel. In addition to getting a hotel, there’s also a hotel tax. We need to do more investigation, but that’s something that we would potentially, as a community, like to do to help with economic development or with tourism marketing.
Do you have other studies coming up?
We are working with the cities of Nixa and Ozark separately. In Ozark, they are working on a couple of corridor studies, so along South Street. They’re looking for public input and to make the decisions on best use of the land. Nixa is also doing a master plan. Neither one of them have the timeline nailed down yet, but it’s within the next year. Both of the studies have funding behind it. Our city of Highlandville, they are also hoping they can have a study done, a master plan. They’ve actually never had one done. They’re so small, but they are growing.
When you came on over a year ago, you mentioned work on a strategic plan at SMCC. What are some of the goals?
We did not end up going through a full strategic plan process. Something that we have been working on is meeting with developers, meeting with landowners and meeting with city staff and then also community members and getting feedback on everybody’s desires because you need everybody on the same page if we’re trying to work on sustainable development. Ultimately, if we can build those relationships and connect when landowners are interested and wanting to do a development, then maybe we can pair them with a developer who might have similar desires. It’s kind of a holistic approach. One of the main goals of our organization has been government relations. Knowing about funding opportunities and how can we go after the funds whenever they’re available and advocate for the funding needed to build out the infrastructure and to show that we have the workforce that we have and people want to move here. We don’t qualify for everything here in Christian County because of our income levels. At the state level, we’re kind of in a tough spot. That puts us at a disadvantage. We have to go and explain why we should be able to qualify. It’s not just Christian County that they should be looking at whenever they’re deciding if we would qualify or not, they should look at the entire region.
You don’t qualify because you have a higher household income?
Plans for the Finley Ridge apartment complex in the growing community of Ozark call for four buildings, four stories apiece, with 48 units each for a total of 192, as well as a 1,500-square-foot shared community and fitness room.