Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce hosts economic development forums
July 29, 2021
Kadee Brosseau DeCourley
The Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Stone County Commission, is hosting a series of open meetings to discuss the future of economic development in the county. The first two forums were held last week on Tuesday evening in Reeds Spring and on Wednesday morning in Crane.
The purpose of the meetings is to gather additional information from the public that will be used to create an economic development strategic plan for Stone County.
“We really need to hear from leaders in the county and the general public for this process to be successful,” Chamber President Sheila Thomas said. “We know that failing to plan is planning to fail, so we believe this is vital. A county economic development plan needs to reflect the vision of its residents and stakeholders.”
The forums are being led by Rob O’Brian, with Rob O’Brian & Associates, an economic development firm out of Joplin. O’Brian began the meetings by reviewing the results of a recent survey completed by 780 Stone County residents.
When asked to rank Stone County’s economic strengths, survey respondents’ top answer was Table Rock Lake.
“Basically 85 percent of respondents said the lake. We heard that in the one-on-one individual interviews, it’s reflected in the survey here,” O’Brian said.
The survey also revealed what respondents perceive as weaknesses or things that hinder economic growth in the county.
“Broadband service came out number one pretty significantly,” O’Brian explained.
During the forums last week, attendees were also asked to consider Stone County’s economic strengths and weaknesses. They broke into small groups and discussed what makes the county unique and what assets are beneficial to economic growth. Attendees also discussed what they would like to see changed in order for Stone County to grow economically.
During the meeting in Reeds Spring, groups compiled lists of improvements like having better public access to Table Rock Lake, building more affordable housing, attracting small industry, creating more recreation facilities like trails and parks, developing more “downtown” areas with entertainment and shopping, and better utilization of the airport in Branson West. Attendees then ranked those changes into things that were, seemingly, the most feasible. During the meeting in Reeds Spring, the top suggested changes related to lake access.
“The lake accessibility and the idea of creating more hiking and biking trails and also working with the Corps resonated very strongly,” O’Brian said.
The information compiled during the forums will be compiled by O’Brian & Associates then shared with the Chamber of Commerce. However, it will not only be used to create an economic development strategic plan for Stone County but also as a tool for other local organizations.
“We have all of this information now that can be utilized by the Chamber with other organizations, for those other organizations to think about their plans,” O’Brian said.
The next two meetings will be held on August 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Hilltop Church in Crane and August 18 at 7:30 a.m. at Kimberling City Hall in Kimberling City.