What was known as “the COVID contract,” is set to expire July 6.
In its stead, the Ozark Board of Aldermen will strike a new contract agreement with the Ozark Chamber of Commerce, in which the city will pay the chamber $45,000 between now and Dec. 31, 2021, for an array of services.
The Ozark Board of Aldermen will consider the final terms and conditions of the contract with the final reading of its corresponding bill scheduled for July 6.
Some of the terms and expectations put on the chamber of commerce by the city government have been adjusted from what was originally planned as a three-year contract extension. However, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic shifted negotiations, and continues to impact economic development work.
“I know that the landscape looks much different now than it looked even six months ago,” Ozark Chamber of Commerce director Anna Evans said.
The contract identifies key ares of work: attracting and developing new business, retaining and expanding existing businesses, aligning Ozark regionally with other municipalities and groups, facilitating tourism efforts, serving as Ozark’s liaison to the community through events and outreach, and helping Ozark grow and attract talented workforce professionals.
“Business development and attraction is always going to be a part of what we do. We’re never going to not be a resource for a business who is looking to move into our community,” Evans said.
However, Evans said business attraction efforts are likely to scale back over the next 18 months, and priorities and resources will be allocated into other ventures in late 2020 and 2021.
“That’s not really going to be our focus or our priority. It’s just conjecture at this point, but I’m not going to guess that with the economy the way that it is, we’re not going to have the instances of potential business development, maybe, from the ground up that we would have potentially had, pre-COVID,” Evans said.
Instead, the Ozark chamber will turn its focus inward on retaining and expanding standing businesses.
“It’s really important for us to prioritize those businesses that we have that are community partners. They’ve invested in our community, and we want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to work with our existing businesses to build that strong economic base,” Evans said.
When it comes to COVID-19 response, the contract spells out that the Ozark Chamber of Commerce will work on behalf of the city government when it comes to informing businesses up to date on rules and laws such as stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, and making sure that businesses are aware of all of the government resources and programs available to them, like the Paycheck Protection Program enacted under the federal CARES Act.
In April, the Ozark Board of Aldermen voted to adopt a three-month contract with the Ozark Chamber of Commerce, ending what began as negotiations for a three-year deal that would have been worth $110,000 in payments from the city to the chamber.
Instead, Ozark paid a $10,000 lump sum fee with a realigned set of guidelines for how the chamber will spend money from the city.
Originally, the city was going to pay the Ozark chamber at least $35,000 per year for professional economic development work.
City Administrator Steve Childers explained that COVID-19 caused some of the city’s top leaders to shift the terms drastically.
“Ms. Evans and I have gone back and we have sat down and we have worked on what the proposal for the remainder of the year would look like, and what might be proposed for even next year,” Childers said.
Childers said he felt comfortable with an 18-month extension for $45,000 as opposed to a three-year extension at $110,000.
“The additional year would only be for budget year 2021, rather than multiple years like we’ve done in the past. We think that the economy is certainly changing. We don’t know from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month what that’s going to be like, so we just want to make sure that we have this conversation,” Childers said.
Childers added that Show Me Christian County economic development group had a hand in helping to negotiate the contract and expectation between Ozark and the Ozark Chamber of Commerce.
“We all three work together. It is us helping each other regardless of whose contract it is, because it is all economic development,” Childers said.