Jasper, Barton, Newton Counties Selected for “Strengthening Our Communities” Initiative

A partnership of civic and business leaders in Jasper, Barton and Newton Counties was selected as the first group to participate in a new “Strengthening Our Communities” strategic-planning initiative offered by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

The CFO offered this competitive opportunity for the first time this year to its 44-member affiliate network in collaboration with Missouri Extension and USDA Rural Development. The joint application was submitted by the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc., on behalf of the Joplin Business & Industrial Development Corp.’s Joplin Regional Prosperity Initiative. The area includes the cities of Carl Junction, Carthage, Joplin, Lamar, Neosho, and Webb City.

The 18-month program is designed to bring together community stakeholders in government, business, education and other areas to focus on mutual goals and challenges to create a strategic plan for the community. The application submitted for the tri-county region includes identifying and addressing issues of talent retention related to young people leaving the area after high school and college.

The group is focused on this issue because it affects the talent pool available in the metropolitan area of 173,000 for advanced manufacturing and technology-oriented jobs. These types of industries create jobs with higher knowledge and skill levels that, in turn, improve the region’s economic base and quality of life.

“This will be a great opportunity for the Community Foundation of SWMO to collaborate with our area communities  to develop regional plans to address economic development, jobs, housing, education and quality of life issues to avoid further ‘brain drain’ in our area,” CFSWMO Board President Lisa Knutzen said.

The “Strengthening Our Communities” project will begin in mid-November with an organizational meeting conducted by Missouri Extension. The CFO is the primary funder for the project, with additional in-kind support from Missouri Extension, USDA, CFSWMO and the Joplin Business & Industrial Development Corp.

“The overall mission of Community Foundation of the Ozarks is to improve the quality of life for our region,” CFO President Brian Fogle said. “Our efforts include our more traditional grant programs, but also involve other resources to help build our communities and make them stronger.  Experience shows that a well-thought out community plan involving all facets of a region can be a catalyst for future prosperity.  We are delighted that the Joplin region is our very first recipient.”

Learn more about the Ozarks Empowerment Project.