The Ozark Board of Aldermen agreed to enter into a five-year agreement that will put a quarter of a million dollars into a regional economic development partnership.
The city of Ozark agreed to pay Show Me Christian County the total sum of $50,000 per year for five years, from 2021 to 2025. Ozark joins with the Christian County Commission, which obligated $50,000 from its 2021 budget for Show Me Christian County. A similar funding request is pending with the Nixa City Council.
The Ozark Board of Aldermen made a 5-1 vote on Jan. 4 on the second reading of a bill to enter into the contract agreement.
The contract agreement calls for the city of Ozark to support Show Me Christian County’s five-year strategic plan, provide that the mayor of Ozark serve on the Show Me Christian County Board of Directors, provide “staff and technical assistance,” and “maintain open communication” with a minimum of quarterly meetings between Ozark city administrative staff and Show Me Christian County staff.
Aldermen Heather Alder, R.J. Flores, Jason Shaffer, Ted Smith and Bruce Galloway all voted to adopt the agreement. Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Posten cast the dissenting vote.
Debate was limited during the meeting, which took place over the Zoom teleconferencing platform, but Posten explained his decision to dissent with a post to the Facebook page he uses to share information with his constituents.
"Long-term thinking doesn't require that I set aside my fiduciary responsibility as an alderman," Posten wrote.
The construction of Creative Audio’s distribution center off of Lakeland Drive in Ozark, the arrival of Alpine Aviation’s helicopter wiring harness manufacturing site in Ozark, and CoxHealth’s “super clinics” under construction in both Nixa and in Ozark are claimed as wins for Show Me Christian County.
Show Me Christian County President Andrea Sitzes said that every dollar invested from Christian County returned $193.91 to the local economy. The business additions and expansions added 130 daytime jobs, Sitzes said.
“The scope and breadth of our organization is very vast,” Sitzes said.
Posten offered another calculation, an estimation that it takes about $1 million in taxable sales for the city of Ozark to receive $25,000 back. Posten said that if an investment did not result in a return on investment (ROI) of at least $1 million per year, it was not worth it.
"I've asked multiple times for an ROI that makes sense based the funds requested. I still haven't been given one that makes sense to me," Posten wrote. "I fully support regional economic development efforts. After all, it's in Ozark's best interest to have a robust economy throughout the region. However, until I am convinced that the ROI for the requested funds is sound, I can't support the request."
In November 2020, the Christian County Commission made a 2-1 vote to allocate the economic development money, with Presiding Commissioner Ralph Phillips and Western District Commissioner Hosea Bilyeu supporting it. They made their pledge on a year-to-year basis, rather than entering into a five-year commitment as was first requested.
In 2012, the cities of Ozark and Nixa, the chambers of commerce in Ozark and Nixa and the government of Christian County funded a study by Austin, Texas-based TIP Strategies to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the northern Christian County economy. One of the consultants’ top recommendations in the report was for Christian County entities to form a singular organization for future economic development work.
Show Me Christian County’s 2021-2025 action plan is drawn from some of the recommendations from TIP Strategies. It calls for partnerships with regional groups such as the Springfield Regional Economic Partnership (SREP) and the eFactory at Missouri State University. It also calls for the identification and planning of an industrial or business park in Christian County, and a multi-faceted action plan to market Christian County to businesses in the fields of health care, customer service centers, medical software, home-based small businesses, hotels and conference centers and light manufacturing.
Other goals specified in the contract language include steps to “foster a business-friendly reputation for (Ozark) and Christian County with government entities to streamline growth,” and to “build a strong sense of identity in Christian County as a magnet for talent in the southwest Missouri region.”