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CFO Launches a Plan to Keep the 'Best and Brightest' in Southwest Missouri

The Community Foundation of the Ozarks, or CFO, has selected a team of business leaders in Jasper, Barton and Newton Counties to take part in a new program that will let them lay out long term plans for their counties’ success.  The 18-month program includes a plan to keep educated young people from leaving these counties after high school and college by encouraging them to take local jobs. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.

The Community Foundation of the Ozarks took applications for this project from its 44-member affiliate network around southwest Missouri. These three counties, which include the cities of Carl Junction, Carthage, Joplin, Lamar, Neosho and Webb City, were selected for this plan over the other affiliates.

The name of the program is “Strengthening Our Communities.”

Brian Fogle is the CFO President and says the point of the project is to ultimately improve the region’s economy by creating and sustaining jobs.

“The Joplin Regional was the winner of that first one that we’re doing. We’re just delighted with their regional approach; some communities looked at it by just doing it with the community, but we’re delighted that they approached in a regional effort; we think that’s the best thing to do.”

The group of leaders will focus on the specific issue of keeping the area’s young people in the community after they graduate. Fogle says in order to keep the economy growing in the area, it’s important we keep the talent pool available.

“Part of this whole planning initiative will be looking at ways and strategies that they can keep their young graduates. They’ve got higher educational institutions as well as fine public schools. I think they’re looking at ways, ‘How can we retain our best and brightest,’ and certainly jobs are a very important part of that, and higher paying jobs. So those two are very much intertwined.”

The “Strengthening Our Communities” project will begin in mid-November with a meeting conducted by CFO’s partner in the project, Missouri Extension. CFO is providing the main funding for the project, with additional support from other businesses in the Joplin region.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.