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Electronic billboard coming to Sparta with grant award

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"The Gateway to the Mark Twain Forest" won't just be an idea, but an official name put in writing in Sparta.

Specifically, the writing will be on a digital billboard that promotes businesses, events and activities to Sparta's residents and guests.

The Sparta Chamber of Commerce received a $15,000 "Plugged In" grant from White River Valley Electric Cooperative. The chamber plans to come up with $15,000 in matching funds so that $30,000 will be put toward a billboard near the intersection of Highway 14 and Highway 125.

The Sparta chamber will receive the $15,000 from the WRVEC Trust upon showing a plan to complete the project, which has a completion deadline of Aug. 1, 2022.

In a letter to the Sparta chamber, WRVEC Community Programs Coordinator Nathan Stearns explained how the grant funding supports the chamber's "dedication to grow our area's economies, promotion of community revitalization and the strengthening of the overall liability of the Ozarks."

The "Gateway to the Mark Twain Forest" moniker for Sparta surfaced around December 2020, when Sparta received a two-year community revitalization grant from Missouri Main Street Connection.

Missouri Main Street promotes "economic development with an emphasis in historic preservation." Not only are commercial corridors important, but the consultants will also examine the neighborhoods around Highway 14. However, most of the consultants' work will be in the central business district. Economic development will be based on events, beautification, business and people recruitment. Missouri Main Street Connection will also perform a market analysis and a business inventory of Sparta.

The Mark Twain National Forest, and Sparta's position near its prominent northwest entrance, will likely be a focus for Sparta business owners to attempt to market themselves to visitors in the future. The close location to the forest and its camping, hiking, ATV and horseback riding amenities is something the consultants from Missouri Main Street Connection picked up on right away.

You can find out more about the Sparta Chamber of Commerce and its members by visiting http://www.spartaareachamber.org.

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