The Sterling Building (A.K.A. the Pick and Save) on the western side of the square in downtown Neosho owned by Rudy Farber and Larry Neff is one of several buildings getting facelifts thanks to monies made available through Gov. Matt Blunt's Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) communities assistance program. Community members met the governor there on August 10, 2007 to express their appreciation for his help in fostering the city's economic development. Out of the total DREAM funding of $30 million awarded to 10 cities, Neosho has received $2.3 million.
Neosho citizens mill around the charts that were set up to describe the projects currently underway in their town's revitalization program.
DREAM is a 2006 initiative based on the collaboration of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Development Finance Board and the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC). As part of DREAM, for a total of three years Neosho will have access to several state-incentive programs to improve the downtown infrastructure, preserve historic architecture, provide affordable housing, enhance community services, develop businesses and create jobs.
The role of the MHDC in the DREAM program is to provide training and technical assistance to smaller communities so that they can compete for funding with Missouri's larger cities. This training includes the fundamentals of how multifamily rental housing is financed, an understanding of homeownership programs offered (HeRO, home repair; First Place loans); the use of tax incentives; and fundamentals of getting grants and loans for low income housing from the Missouri Housing Trust Fund Program.
Regarding revitalization of the town, "Two years ago I'd say you're dreaming," Farber told the audience. But today Farber, pictured right, was able to list the significant accomplishments currently underway: the renovation of the high school, the new grade school, Crowder projects and the three construction projects on the square. And he give credit to the impetus that encouraged the investment of private funds. City Manager Jan Blase eventually enumerated all the infrastructure improvements, not the least being the new airport terminal that was dedicated earlier in the day.
Farber said the Sterling Building will have 12 units upstairs including five condos and five storefronts downstairs that he would like to become retail operations to "hopefully raise sales taxes." Now having signed a contract for the Getty Building, Farber said that he and his partner want to prove that the epithets, "Ness Nonsense" and "Farber's Folly" that they've acquired are unjustified, and that they have confidence in what and how they are investing.
Gov. Matt Blunt responds to quip by Neosho businessman Larry Ness, his appointee to the Missouri Development Finance Board.
In case anyone in the audience didn't know, Ness explained how he had been re-appointed to the Missouri Development Finance Board by Gov. Blunt after an initial appointment made by former Gov. Bob Holden in 2002. His comment that he was glad he was not accused of being a bleeding heart Democrat" drew some guffaws from the crowd as well as a smile from Blunt.
His little speech that followed centered around how, after he had asked for board documents, he discovered that 80-85% of the MDFB money went to big cities like St. Louis and Kansas City leaving the balance for the rest of the state.
"It's not the board's fault," he explained. "People knew how to ask for money." They had resources that the smaller cities and towns didn't have.
But in assessing the DREAM program, Ness said that it was the "most important thing for 'outstate' Missouri in the last 50 years," He didn't enumerate what was the most important thing before then.
Gov. Blunt pushes his Quality Jobs program
The economy was on the move was the way the governor described the on-going economic development in Missouri. He called DREAM a comprehensive approach to economic development that helps make downtowns the centers of commerce.
"Smaller cities need the same access as those cities that can hire armies of lawyers and consultants," Blunt said in describing the benefits of the DREAM program. He then presented Mayor Howard Birdsong with a check for $400,000, Community Development Block Grant money that will pay for commercial demolition to allow for more redevelopment opportunities in the downtown area.
For the article, "Neosho is chosen as a DREAM city, go here.