“Believe in Buffalo” is the motto the GRO Project has adopted to engage the population to work towards economic development. Community volunteers, educators, business people and area officials have joined together to develop strategies to help improve the town. GRO leaders want to help the citizens build a more productive and sustainable local economy. 

Buffalo is one of two Missouri communities selected to participate in the second phase of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Growth in the Rural Ozarks (GRO) economic development program. The two-year initiative is co-funded by local community partners and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. 

The project is supported by local government, schools and other stakeholders, as well as the Dallas County Community Foundation. GRO programming is aimed at promoting job creation, entrepreneurship and economic and workforce development in the rural Ozarks.

The GRO Initiative is divided into five distinct areas including the following: 

Management

A core tea is being established to oversee the entire GRO program. Dedicated core members will identify leaders for each project and will meet with the leaders to review each action plan. The core team is currently identifying and recruiting members. Members are also in discovery to find out about local leadership training.

A business roundtable has joined the Dallas County Economic Development Group with the GRO Buffalo core group to get some of the major employers together to talk about business issues. The core group will use that information to direct future initiatives.

Workforce and Population

Working with Buffalo High School, an internship program is being developed under the leadership of BHS principal Keith White. He will be working on how to share the intern profiles with potential community business partners. 

The Dallas County R-1 School District is continually working on developing strategies and implementing programs to help local students develop. One goal is to have graduating seniors be able to step into a workforce which provides the right skill set to find jobs at home. 

A committee person remarked, “Buffalo’s greatest export is our students. When they graduate, most have to leave home to find jobs.”

Another development will be The Northwest Project. TNP has not begun yet, but is in the planning stages. This project is focused on how to lift families out of the cycle of poverty. More details will be published at a later date.

Startups and established businesses

Progress is being made on business support efforts. The website Business 911 has been launched. The website provides information about events, internships, resources and job postings. Anyone in the GRO community may post on the site and everyone has access.  Residents are encouraged to add resources, meetings, jobs and events to the Business 911 platform. 

Businesses or organizations that would be willing to host a high school intern should sign up through the Business 911 website.

The free speaker series was launched in July and will continue at noon every third Thursday and may be watched at the Dallas County R-1 School central office board room. Everyone is welcome to attend. For example, there was a live event on Aug. 16. Tim Smith, Phillips Media Group, presented a session on marketing. 

The GRO Buffalo group wants to attract lodging options to the community such as Airbnb, HomeAway, etc. The lodging available is limited for the county. Often there are events at the fairgrounds, large weddings coming to the downtown wedding venue or the bridal barn north of Buffalo. Attendees are having difficulty finding spaces to stay close to the venues. All options are being evaluated for Buffalo’s lodging problem.

Infrastructure

Community beautification is still at the top of the list to prepare the town for potential business visitors and ultimately new business. The city of Buffalo is enforcing its nuisance ordinances and trying to remove the blight. 

The Helping Hands group will start again in September. This volunteer group cleans up property. Interested parties should contact the city to be placed on the address work list. Volunteers are always welcome to join in the cleanup days. Watch the newspaper and social media for new dates to be posted.

Sidewalks and lighting are still at the top of the list to find more money to continue to improve sidewalks and look at alternative lighting sources such as solar.

Park improvements are ongoing. The Buffalo Garden Club has been engaged and will help advise as improvements are done, and more park space built. Recently the city aldermen added a disc golf course to the park on Ramsey Street.

The school is preparing a way to build a new career center. The Dallas County Technical Center building in Louisburg is becoming a danger and is not cost effective to repair. A new technical school in Buffalo would open more opportunities for area students and potentially build a better workforce pool.

Also, discussions have started to drive enthusiasm for students towards avionics using the local airport as opportunity and leverage.

Community engagement and outreach

A couple of surveys have been made available to the public. The GRO project wanted to get the pulse of the community and find out what areas of improvement the general population wanted. These will be taken throughout the two-year process to have measurable response and keep on target.

A committee is finding out what it takes to get additional signage in line with MoDOT’s guidelines to provide better signage pointing out the downtown area, schools, post office and others.

The group has been working on branding and general outreach through social media, newspaper and community speaking engagements. There is a page of Facebook on which updates are posted. A group page is also on Facebook enabling people to join together to talk about “Believe in Buffalo.”

The marketing group maintains an email list to directly remind people about Helping Hand’s days or new information. T-shirts are available at Market 116 in red with the words “Believe in Buffalo.” Yard signs are one of the items talked about, and members are locking down prices now. T-shirts are available now for sale and yard signs will follow.

For more information contact Tanya Watson, executive director of the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce, (417) 345-2852. Hollie Elliott, Dallas County Economic Developer, is home for a couple months attending to twin newborn boys. She will be available later in the year.

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