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Photo provided by JONAS ARJES
Photo provided by JONAS ARJES

Five Questions: Jonas Arjes

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Jonas Arjes took a pass at becoming the 2012 chairman of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce to lead a new venture. On Jan. 11, Arjes was named business development director for the fledgling Taney County Business Development Partnership. The former Akers & Arney insurance salesman is tasked with securing public and private economic development partners for the two-month-old group that operates under the umbrella of the chamber. Though he was born in Sweden, Arjes has lived in Branson since the mid-1970s and worked in the restaurant industry, including a stint as a Schlotzsky’s franchisee 200s0–07.

First Day: Jan. 23
“My office is at the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce building off of Highway 248 in Branson. Right now, we are just developing, building new relationships and finishing the actual structure of the partnership. The next goal is to identify our business sector partners and establish a board because this is going to be a board-driven effort. Since this is a hybrid position, the chamber’s involvement was to say, ‘We will put this person on our payroll, and we will house the person and give the administrative support that is needed.’ I report directly to Ross Summers, the president and CEO of the chamber, but my accountability, as far as the efforts of the partnership, will lie with the board of directors.”

6 Partners Out of the Gate
“We have approached all of the incorporated cities and villages in Taney County. Taney County was one of the first to come on board along with the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and (Convention & Visitors Bureau). Now, we have Merriam Woods, Kirbyville, Rockaway Beach, Hollister, Branson and as of (Feb. 6) Forsyth. The first goal was to get all the public sectors involved, and we are two shy of getting full participation from them.”

Pay It Forward
“We’re using the Springfield Regional Economic Partnership as a guideline. The objective is to enhance job growth, job development and capital investment in Taney County. Finite goals have yet to be established (and) once the board is established, then we will get into building budgets and establishing organizational goals. … Merriam Woods, Kirbyville, Rockaway Beach and Forsyth have committed $500 per year for three years, with Forsyth committing $1,000 for years two and three. Hollister has committed $5,000 for three years and Branson committed $5,000 for five years. The county, through the county commission, has pledged $50,000 a year for three years. As of (Feb. 13), the minimum commitment for business-sector partners would be $2,500.”   

Worth the Risk
“I was a commercial lines agent, a risk-management agent … . Obviously, early on I dealt with smaller businesses and as time progressed, larger ones. There was a lot of internal debate, a lot of prayer, that went into the decision because it was an incredible work family at Akers & Arney. At the end of the day, this challenge, both from a personal and professional standpoint it just seemed like the right thing to do. … I think the (hiring committee) recognized my passion for the area. I grew up here. I’m not a native-native. I was 5 years old when we moved (from Sweden), so I’m about as local as you can get without being born at Skaggs.”

Family Roots
“In 1974, my mother and I came on a plane with four suitcases and less than $500, (and) my mother started waiting tables as soon as she got a visa to work. … Her uncle had immigrated in 1919. He worked in the construction industry in California, Alaska and Hawaii. Sometime in the late ’40s or early ’50s, he went on a cross-country expedition and went through Rockaway Beach. In the early ’60s, he decided to retire and pretty much sight unseen bought 80 acres on Highway 176 in Walnut Shade, moved here and then realized that Table Rock Dam had been built and Rockaway Beach wasn’t the same. But they loved the area.”
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