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Economic Development Outlook: Steve Childers

City Administrator, City of Ozark

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2022 Projection: Our residential development requests in new subdivisions are going to remain strong. You’re going to see an increase in higher end multifamily developments. That’s going to continue to drive our commercial retail.

How is 2022 shaping up for economic development in Ozark?
 Ozark has always been a town that has relied predominantly on its small to midsize businesses. We’re continuing to see the interest in Ozark from new small and midsize businesses. Our average in number of employees in businesses here is about 15. It’s not 80, 100 or 1,000, like Amazon. One thing that does is it keeps us very resilient to economic change and economic downturns. It keeps us more sustainable. The more small and midsize businesses that we can support and the more ways we can give them a diversity of housing options, we can then continue to remain sustainable through any economic downturns. I’m not concerned about 2022 at all. It’s going to be a very busy and strong year. We continue to have more requests than we can keep up with.

What can newer, unique business ventures such as Finley Farms and Volleyball Beach Ozark do for local economic growth? 
Finley Farms is going to be a real game changer for us. Ozark is a very historically rich community. For someone like Mr. [Johnny] Morris to take interest in Ozark from a historic preservation standpoint and make the level of investment in our community shows that they really believe in improving a community. It will create that economic tourism engine that lies between Springfield and Branson that we kind of always sought after. The question has always been: How do you get people to pull off when they’re going between Springfield and Branson? Now we have a good reason. Beach volleyball was something that nobody expected, but it’s a great addition to Ozark and is an indication of what’s to come.

Are there prime areas for continued development in Ozark?
On the south side we have a great focus. We made a five-lane expansion [of South Street] with (Missouri Department of Transportation) down to Apple Market. The south side of town has a great amount of potential. We feel like development in the south side of town can cause people to want to stay more local. It maybe makes it a little less inviting to drive to Springfield. Also, the central business district is only going to expand with amazing economic development potential – especially the property immediately adjacent to downtown, what we call the Finley River District.

Where can economic development improve in 2022?
Trying to identify properties and property owners to work with our economic development organization called Show Me Christian County. We want to find opportunities to create what are called shovel-ready sites or certified sites as defined by the state economic development department. A lot of businesses hire professional consultants to go around the country and identify what the best sites are for their new investments. We need to figure out where we should be making infrastructure investments and where we can work with private landowners to do that, so that sites are ready to just pull the trigger when somebody comes along. You’ve just got to be ready.


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