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Tourism Bureau's feelings mixed on hiring economic developer
Tourism Bureau's feelings mixed on hiring economic developer

Pulaski County Tourism Board member Bruce Farris questions how much help hiring an economic developer can provide to the area under current economic conditions..
ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Dec. 19, 2008) — Members of the Pulaski County Tourism Board previously agreed to ask the county commission to revise its contract to allow a contribution to the new Pulaski County Growth Alliance, but during Friday’s tourism board meeting, several board members questioned how much can be expected from an economic developer.

“I think this process of convincing people is going to be a long process,” said board member Bruce Farris. “Even if we do get the donations in this organization, which hopefully we will, it think it’s going to be a while before we see any development in an industrial park. With the economy and everything like it is, I don’t see it happening; maybe in the next five years we might see something.”

Board member Rick Morris said he attended a recent breakfast meeting at the Waynesville Technical Academy in which community leaders explained to nearly 100 local business leaders why they believe Pulaski County needs to hire a full-time economic developer. Key speakers were Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall and local banker Mike Dunbar who explained the financial requirements of the organization; Ben Jones from Lebanon and Elizabeth Bax from Rolla explained what they do as economic developers for their areas.

“It was a larger turnout than we expected,” Morris said. “It was a pretty productive meeting, I think; a good first start. We’ll see how the next meeting goes.”

Farris wasn’t so sure, noting that many of the boat factories in Lebanon are cutting back and retail businesses are in trouble.

“Unfortunately we should have done it 10 years ago, but I don’t see a lot happening,” Farris said. “I don’t personally see anything happening in the near future. I don’t think it’s a good time for companies to be expanding.”

Morris acknowledged the regional and national economic difficulties but said the economic difficulties also present opportunities to hire a highly-qualified economic developer.

“I think now is probably a good time to go out and find somebody that can start building relationships. You can probably find good people out there as people scale back and people are let go from wherever; we may find some quality folks that can get out there and market us.”

Morris said even though many companies in Lebanon are cutting back operations, at least one is expanding its local operations in Lebanon by shutting down a plant elsewhere and consolidating. That should create several hundred new jobs in Lebanon, Morris said.

“As companies look to improve efficiencies and lower their operation costs, we may be a target of opportunity for somebody to relocate here,” Morris said. “We may have an opportunity there, but if we don’t have somebody out there showcasing us, I think the threat is we may not even be thought of.”

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