The City of Rolla recently committed to a three-year agreement with the Sustainable Ozark Partnership (SOP), granted them $12,000 once a year for three years. This total is a sum of donations from the City of Rolla, the Rolla Regional Economic Commission (RREC) and the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce’s Phelps for the Fort. This is a report of what we might expect for our money . . .
The City of Rolla recently committed to a three-year agreement with the Sustainable Ozark Partnership (SOP), granted them $12,000 once a year for three years. This total is a sum of donations from the City of Rolla, the Rolla Regional Economic Commission (RREC) and the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce’s Phelps for the Fort.
This is the first time the SOP has directly requested funds, according to Rolla City Administrator John Butz. He said the organization originally requested $15,000, but was still thrilled with the current dollar amount. Butz said the agreement to support the SOP financially was a way for the city and the organization to grow closer, and for the city to take a more active role in supporting an installation that positively impacts the region’s economy.
“We’ve really been involved with the Fort Leonard Wood promotional activities for well over a decade,” explained Butz. “The whole idea was that we have this wonderful facility here in the region—and it’s vulnerable. There are bases all over the country that are vying for mission, and mission means activity and economic impact. It’s a very political process.”
Butz said that a previous U.S. Representative for Missouri, Ike Skelton, was in a key position to advocate for Fort Leonard wood during his time in office and the installation was very well protected. However, when Skelton retired, the area lost much of their standing in representing Fort Leonard Wood. The SOP fills that void and answers the need to advocate for the installation.
“We have a lot at stake. It’s not hard to look at the economic impact of what Fort Leonard Wood means to this region. That’s the reason we’re engaging with the SOP.
Butz explained it’s difficult to pinpoint the dollar amount spent in Rolla by Fort Leonard Wood employees and residents, however the SOP did conduct research on the overall impact of the installation, which they submitted as part of their request.
According to their research, Fort Leonard Wood does generate a total of $14 billion in spending, and the installation’s 183,000 jobs make up seven percent of the state’s entire workforce. The study showed the installation generates a total of $32 billion worth of an economic impact on the surrounding area.
“That has benefit for Rolla…that has benefit for the whole region,” said Butz.
An additional benefit for financially backing the SOP, according to Butz, is Rolla’s ability to have the organization report on their budget and how the money is being spent, and to also show what economic impact they’re able to measure.
“We get back some accountability,” said Butz.
The SOP has already submitted their 2017-2018 budget, which includes the following items:
Salaries and fringe benefits
401 (k) Retirement
Insurance - Health
Board Liability and Insurance
Website Development and Maintenance
Consultants - John Pursley
NAP Expenses - Consultant and travel
SOP Staff Consultant - Ron Selfors
SOP Staff Consultant - Erin Kaberline
3rd Party Administrator - Darrell Layman
Department of Agriculture Grant
The total cost for these items, according to the budget, is $677,499.
The money for the contribution comes from the City of Rolla’s general fund, according to Butz.
“We have a division in the general fund for economic development. That’s where we actually provide our contract support for the Rolla Regional Economic Commission,” he explained. “In the economic development division of the budget, we have a line called “Professional Contractual Services” where we contract for these kinds of agreements.”
The council approved a three-year memorandum of agreement with the SOP, so the money will need to be allocated in the budget by the council each year. This is another reason, according to Butz, why the reports given by the SOP will be a benefit.
“They’re more willing to do that if they hear from the SOP, at least annually, with what they’re doing,” he said.
Butz explained that engaging in the SOP and financially supporting them shows Rolla as being “an active player at the table.” The SOP has already requested use of the city’s logo to use in lobbying and public relations campaigns, highlighting them as being an active, thriving community to legislators.
The SOP’s meetings are open to the public, and residents can attend to hear how the organization is using funds to advocate for the installation, and how it is affecting the economy. According to John Butz, the meetings are also a good way to hear about what’s happening in the Department of Defense.
The amount of the contribution can be reviewed in three years, when the contract is completed. The city can then decide whether or not to adjust the amount given, and it can be said the SOP will be continuing their efforts three years from now.
“This effort isn’t going away in three years,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the SOP’s plans are to be here for a long time. As long as Fort Leonard Wood is here we’re going to have to have some advocacy for it.
“I think they’ve [the SOP] got the right people in place with the right influence to be able to do things positively for Fort Leonard Wood and the region. Hopefully now with our being an active member of the group, it just makes it that much stronger.”