Rural Missouri - September 2020 - 9
by Zach Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
eighbors banding together to help one another is
the way of life in rural Missouri. At the community level that means joining forces to help drive
economic development, increase average income
and improve the quality of life. It's all in line with the co-op
principle of Concern for Community, which Howell-Oregon
Electric Cooperative treats as a mandate.
Whether it's educating schoolchildren and ﬁrst responders on electric safety or helping homeowners and
businesses determine the best ways to save on their
energy bills, the co-op is dedicated to seeing its members
succeed. That's why Howell-Oregon is a partner in the
Ozark Development Corp. which aims to promote the area
photo by Jim McCarty
and serve as a resource for businesses and industries.
Howell-Oregon's programs helped a Caterpillar Inc. plant realize savings
"We're proud to participate in the economic developthrough a change to LED lighting. Board members of Heritage Business
ment efforts of our region," says Howell-Oregon Manager
Park toured the facility after upgrades were completed in 2018.
of Member Services Myles Smith. "We're always glad to see
new or expanding business growth as it helps our mem"Every one of our departments is a service to the combers directly."
munity that the citizens require, so it's a balance of how
Part of that plan is Heritage Business Park in Pomona,
and when to spend the money," Beverly says. "We can't
which the co-op has been instrumental in developing,
access large grants because we don't have the in-kind
leading and marketing since the regional industrial park
funding. We're dependent on ourselves."
was founded in the 1960s. Its growth and development
On that front, Howell County made signiﬁcant progover the years have directly impacted those
communities that participate in it, which
ress in 2018 when voters passed the county's use
include West Plains, Willow Springs, Mountain
tax, which collects sales tax from online purchases.
View, Pomona and Howell County. Aiding the
In 2019, the use tax accounted for a $500,000
partners is a new economic development study
increase to revenue and is on track to best that
amount before the end of 2020. With dollars for
undertaken by Wisconsin-based Ady Advantage
maintaining infrastructure and services coming
for Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative and its
in what the area needs now is a workforce. Two
nine member electric co-ops. As co-ops and
challenges found by Sho-Me's regional study
communities review the study to forge their best
are a below-average labor participation rate and
path ahead, those in Howell-Oregon's service terstagnant or declining populations.
ritory hope to continue their forward momentum.
"There's a shortage of labor, that's the big thing," says
That includes improving infrastructure, namely efforts to
Howell County Presiding Commissioner Mark Collins. "It's
limit damages caused by ﬂooding that became apparent in
hard to ﬁnd people to go to work, but that also means
the spring of 2017. These updates safeguard citizens and
there's a job out there for people."
make the area more attractive to new businesses.
Mountain View is making changes at the ground level
Locally, there's a feeling the economy is on an upswing.
so that when a new business comes to town it can put
From 2019-2021, West Plains is projected to see $155 mildown roots. Voters passed a $6 million bond issue this
lion in investment from businesses and 181 new jobs. City
year to improve sewer and water lines, and the city recentAdministrator Tom Stehn points to major employers such
ly switched to remote metering for electricity - anticipated
as Leonardo DRS, Ozarks Medical Center and West Plains
to save $150,000 annually. Businesses such as Walmart
Veterinary Supply as leading the way with expansions.
and McDonald's are making renovations and additions.
"The chances of getting new businesses, as far as manSigning those building permits is encouraging for Mayor
ufacturing, in today's world is very difﬁcult," Tom says,
Donnie Pruett: It's a sign no major players plan to leave.
adding that getting a new company to take a look at rural
"We've had positive reactions to everything we're doing,
communities is often the ﬁrst hurdle. "Every community
and we've got positive attitudes," Donnie says of the town.
in the U.S. and even outside of it are trying to get them, so
"Eventually, it's going to work out."
one of the focus points is making sure existing businesses
As infrastructure and revenues improve and businesses
are happy and hopefully doing well enough to expand."
expand, it seems some of the economic woes of 2008 are
More progress of that kind can be seen in Willow
gone. With a solid foundation in place, communities have
Springs. City Administrator Beverly Hicks says expansions
a chance for arguably the best qualities of rural America
by Jasper Engine and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Rail- a neighborly attitude and a strong work ethic - to do
way Co. as well as the addition of a Love's Travel Stop are
the talking for them when opportunity knocks at the door.
signs the local economy is thriving. The area has added
That's the sentiment between the partners in ODC.
roughly 140 jobs since 2013, and city leaders hope that's a
"We're each other's biggest cheerleaders," Beverly says.
trend for the future. Still, Beverly points out there's always
"We all know that the more business we do individually
a challenge for small communities when budgeting for
helps the entire community."
expansion while maintaining existing services.
SEPTEMBER 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
Rural Missouri - September 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - September 2020
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