New Growth in Rural America: Value Chain Development in West Central Missouri
A New Growth Initiative, aimed at building a promising future for West Central Missouri's children, connects rural assets to market demand.
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West Central Missouri Community Action Agency (West Central)
Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Appleton City, St. Clair County, Missouri
Location(s) of impact
United States of America: Appleton City, Osceola, Windsor, Clinton, Stockton, Hermitage, Belton
Meet the people and places of West Central Missouri, viewed through the lens of area youth. Our challenges, hopes and opportunities are reflected here.
Local food and agriculture is a core West Central strategy, not only for building local business, but for addressing regional hunger and health. From a neighborhood level to a regional environmental level, our work at the community farm encompasses school, community, youth service work, and local hunger issues, while working to bridging the gap between entrepreneurs and consumers to meet market demands.
The new Bulldog Brew in El Dorado Springs fills a niche that attracts young and old. Backed by strong community support, the coffee shop meets market demand and is building a bright spot in the local economy through value chain development that offers opportunities for more business to all. A cross-roads for people who have known each other for years, their talent, knowledge, a sense of community and an array of skills may be found each morning at the Bulldog Brew.
After the town's only grocery closed, April Siegfried opened the Chilhowee Corner Store in an old bank building. To her surprise, the new Rock Island Rail Trail brought tourists and revenue to her door, sparking new business growth in her tiny town of 300.
Buzz’s market was established 35 years ago in Collins, Missouri. Then, the 4-lane highway bypassed the town a few years ago, and Main Street shut down. Still, Buzz’s has continued to thrive. The only store in a 30-mile radius, customers will drive an hour for Buzz's specialty fresh meats. Their business combines tourism and agriculture to bring new residents and new life to the area.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Towns in West Central Missouri often frame the picture of rural American decay: Bypassed. Abandoned. Forgotten. Yet this Osage River country, where the Ozarks meets the Prairie, also represents a new economic frontier for rural America. Demand is growing for authentic people, places, and products. Emerging markets for wholesome food, friendly Main Streets, cottage industries, and unique character can feed new growth from our deep can-do roots.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
The New Growth initiative aims to build a promising future for West Central Missouri’s children by connecting our rural assets to market demand in larger cities nearby and beyond. The large gap in-between is the problem we focus on solving. Specifically, we work with entrepreneurs and communities to explore demand opportunities, discover the value they can bring to market, and build the value chain of working relationships needed to make new livelihoods possible. Our region has identified three inter-related market opportunities for feeding new growth here. Tourism is an underdeveloped sector that can stimulate investment in our people, places, and products. Food and agriculture is one that can grow through tourism and its new connections to consumers and outside markets. The third opportunity is the aging-in-place market of retirees and others looking for the rural, small-town quality of life that we can strengthen for all incomes, ages, and interests in this work.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
Our work has begun with initial investments in local food and agriculture. A Community Farm provides food to supplement local food pantries, educational workshops and service opportunities for youth. Last year, the federal Local Foods, Local Places program helped develop a local food systems plan. Our Double-Up Food Bucks program has increased access of fresh vegetables to nearly 300 low-income customers. Partnership with Fresh Farm HQ is helping build a consistent market, and supply locally grown farm products to wholesalers. Farm-to-School programs with local farmers and 4 schools provide fresh, locally grown vegetables to students. West Central is established as a local source for distributing resources in emergency situations, connecting clients with food, clothing, shelter and other needs, providing nearly 20,000 pounds of food at two food pantries in the region. Volunteers served 41,000 last year at the Community Farm, Food Pantries, and Early Childhood Centers in the area.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
The New Growth initiative is an independent nonprofit community development corporation under West Central Missouri Community Action Agency. West Central began investing organizational resources in 2017 to build New Growth programs. Grant requests for program activities, such as value chain coordination, are in process, and currently our program is reliant upon grants. Future sponsorships and advertising will underwrite communications and outreach work. Community-based market explorations and value chain development work will produce strategies that have potential to draw financing from lenders and local individuals. We expect self-sufficiency within 5 years as this value chain work will produce momentum and wealth-building evidence that donors large and small will support.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
The New Growth initiative uses the innovative, practical WealthWorks approach. An open-source network of professionals building rural community opportunity, WealthWorks combines asset-based community development, business cluster support, and collective impact models. Facilitating value chain development in-between, Wealthworks also recognizes and invests in coordinating relationships over time, designing and delivering targeted support to entrepreneurs and enterprises with growth potential.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Administering federal programs in the endless War on Poverty since 1965, West Central makes no apologies for helping those most in need. But, we know that direct assistance is only temporary and can encourage dependency when root causes are not addressed.
Our “Aha” moments occur daily: A mother without transportation can’t complete job training. A father cannot start a business because his credit is in a downward spiral. The ultimate “Aha” is recognizing that even with job training or improved credit scores, many are going nowhere.
Today the new economic development bottom line is quality of life. Our challenge and opportunity is to identify market demand opportunities and leverage our community capital: talented people, under-utilized machinery, historic towns and beautiful, quiet spaces. This is how we nurture new growth for our own citizens and for investors to come.
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