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No. 3: Development booms in Republic

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It’s a bedroom community no more.

In 2021, major projects in Republic came to fruition, letting other potential developers know the city is open for business.

Large-scale developments from Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and nonprofit Convoy of Hope already appear to be paying dividends, bringing the city interest from the likes of Springfield staple Andy’s Frozen Custard Inc. and popular fast-food chain Whataburger.

The August opening of Amazon’s new fulfillment center brought Gov. Mike Parson to town in September, when he called the facility “impressive.” Some 1,400 employees started off working in the 1.3 million-square-foot building, which is equivalent to the size of 22 football fields. A state zoning application put the building cost at $25 million.

Following the tour, Parson said the Amazon center in Republic represents “a great opportunity for our state.” Parson said the center is a boon to the labor market in southwest Missouri, and that when major companies come to the state, it’s an opportunity for residents. The 134-acre property was purchased from Drury University in November 2020, just 10 months before the opening.

Nearby, Convoy of Hope in fall 2021 opened its $14 million, 250,000-square-foot world distribution center on 135 acres the organization purchased in 2020. Next up is Convoy of Hope’s $34 million global headquarters and training center, a 195,000-square-foot project adjacent to the distribution center. Officials broke ground on the expansion in October, with plans to wrap within 18 months. The expansion will be attached through a skywalk to the distribution center. Q & Co. LLC is serving as general contractor for the project designed by Buxton Kubik Dodd Design Collective. Convoy of Hope, which had a $54 million operating budget in 2021, employs close to 340 people worldwide.

With job-creating projects come amenities for residents. Developer Randy Magers is building a mixed-use apartment and retail center kitty-corner to the Amazon site, and Countryland Homes Inc. developed a $15 million mixed-use project with apartments at the intersection of highways 60 and M for property owner Canyon View Capital Inc, a California company. In a Sept. 7 Springfield Business Journal article, City Administrator David Cameron said Republic’s population is 18,500, and there are 2,000 single- and multifamily residential units in some stage of development. Five years ago, only 60-80 houses were in the works, Cameron said.

An Andy’s Frozen Custard opened on the city’s main thoroughfare in August at 1355 U.S. Highway 60, its first in Republic. The Andy’s site previously was occupied by a Meek’s Lumber Co. store. Next door to Andy’s, Whataburger is eyeing a potential location. City officials say the burger chain submitted a building permit application for 1371 U.S. Highway 60.

Meanwhile, the city of Republic scored a win at the ballot box in August, when voters approved a public safety sales tax issue.

Proposition S aids the Republic police and fire departments by funding additional staff, adjusting pay to be more competitive with area municipalities and improving retirement benefits. The three-quarter-cent sales tax is expected to generate over $2.1 million in additional revenue for the city in its first year and it has a 25-year sunset.

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