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Tourism Bureau may give money to Pulaski County Growth Alliance

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Dec. 12, 2008) — The chairwoman of the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau told county commissioners Thursday that her board would like to support the economic development mission of a new Pulaski County Growth Alliance, but her board’s lawyers say the county’s existing contract with the Tourism Bureau may have to be amended.

“As long as it is tourism related and what we are doing has some connection to tourism, we can probably do it, but we would have to revise our contract slightly with the county,” said Tourism Board Chairwoman Twyla Cordry. “We didn’t want to pay our attorney any more money for research if we didn’t feel the county would let us revise our contract.”

Commissioners said they’d be open to revising the county’s tourism contract if needed to make it possible for the Tourism Bureau to contribute to the Pulaski County Growth Alliance.

The Tourism Bureau isn’t supported by county property tax or sales tax funds, but the collector’s office receives payments from each hotel and motel in the county, as well as a few resorts and other locations that pay a transient guest tax that’s used to fund local tourism. Due in large measure to the presence of Fort Leonard Wood, hotel and motel occupancy rates in Pulaski County haven’t been hurt as badly as other areas of the state and that means revenue from the transient guest tax has remained stable.

“We need all the help we can get, as you well know,” said Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall, who also chairs the Pulaski County Growth Alliance.

An economic development study funded by the Department of Defense’s office of economic adjustment recommended that Pulaski County create an organization that would hire a full-time economic developer and provide office staff, but getting the necessary money to provide a three-year commitment for the economic developer has been difficult. A key problem, Ransdall said, is that substantial contributions had been expected not only from area cities but also from businesses such as banks and electric cooperatives, and less money has been forthcoming than had been expected.

“Some people said a year or two ago they would come in with $5,000 a year and now they’re coming in with $1,500 a year,” Ransdall said. “We were expecting them to give more but I fully understand why they are not.”

A key part of the economic developer’s duties, Ransdall said, would be to design and maintain a website for Pulaski County.

“The county needs a website and we don’t have one, which is terrible,” Ransdall said. “If you got to the computer, you get Pulaski County, Arkansas.”

People who want to do business in Pulaski County now are calling either the city of St. Robert or the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce, Ransdall said — and that’s not fair to the rural northern part of the county which has railroad access, more available land, and vacant industrial buildings that could easily be refitted for a manufacturing operation.

“In talking to SR, they get X number of calls a month for people to locate here,” Ransdall said. “Richland, Dixon and Crocker get less calls, but they have something to offer.”

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