The Workshop opens in Ozark

STAFF AT THE WORKSHOP cut the ribbon on the coffee shop and makerspace that was once Wheeler Gardens, and before that, a Missouri Department of Transportation garage and shop.

We put a good deal of effort into covering business growth in this particular edition of the Christian County Headliner News. We do this because we happened to have an unusually high volume of business news this week, and because we believe commercial growth is sorely necessary for our collective future.

Nixa Chamber of Commerce President Chris Russell pointed out at the Nixa State of the Community dinner in October that Nixa is strong in the service sector where businesses like banks, law offices and dental clinics are “stronger than ever.”

However, you can’t say the same for stores.

“Retail is still struggling outside of some of the bigger stores like Walmart and Nixa Hardware,” Russell said.

I get that. After a long day of work, I don’t like to go shopping. If I have to go shopping, I want to go to one store, or maybe two, but that’s about it. The smaller stores or specialty stores need to really compete to attract a person like me, but they can do it by selling quality products that are good enough to make me go out of the way and muster up the energy to make one more stop on the way home.

“It’s a struggle for them to compete with Springfield, Branson and online sales, and the fact that we are still lacking in a variety of choices just causes people to go somewhere else,” Russell said.

I get that, too. A couple of my preferred specialty stores are in Springfield, and my wife loves to drag me to the outlet mall in Branson so that I can carry the bags full of everything she buys while we are there.

In October 2019, Nixa collected $203,911.38 in sales tax. That figure is up 4.52 percent from October 2018, and puts 2019 up 2.83 percent in year-to-date collection from 2018. September is traditionally one of Nixa’s strongest months for sales tax revenue.

Nixa is looking for something that will draw in more outside guests.

“In the commercial and industrial sector, we are still looking for that next opportunity to explore Nixa,” Russell said.

The next big opportunity, and maybe more, arrived in Ozark with the ongoing development of Finley Farms. You can also see stories of CoxHealth opening “super clinics” in both Nixa and Ozark and the development of Marucci Clubhouse Midwest next to U.S. Baseball Park in this very newspaper. All of these are good examples of business development happening in northern Christian County, and all are worth noting.

Ozark will hang its hat on having attracted a Bass Pro Shops signature development once restoration work is finished on the old mill and the Finley Farms attractions are all open to guests. Meanwhile, Nixa is searching for the right commercial development that helps it stand out from the rest of the pack.

Show Me Christian County may one day help Nixa with that.

Nixa, Ozark and Christian County came to the table to establish Show Me Christian County in the wake of a consultant report in 2012 that recommended the entities pool their resources to create one economic development agency. Action on the partnership didn’t really happen until 2017, because Nixa and Ozark couldn’t seem to want to work with each other. Russell, who was then a city councilman, admits that he first balked at the idea.

Today, Show Me Christian County is moving forward with Nixa and Ozark cooperating. The CoxHealth projects are a sterling example of that work.

Show Me Christian County’s task has been to stop Ozark and Nixa from posturing against each other, and to better position Christian County regionally as a target for commercial and industrial growth.

“Between 75 and 80 percent of our residents leave the county every day for work,” Sitzes said. “One of the sayings that we have in our office is that progress isn’t always pretty, but we make it look good.”

We need more commercial growth, we need more progress and we need it to be good growth right now.

—Rance Burger

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