Monday, March 1, 2010

Investment in Rolla area seen across the board

While the City of Rolla is still not seeing the soaring 5% gains in sales tax revenues we once did five and six years ago, many significant developments and investments made in our City over the past year or so are showing just how attractive and robust are community continues to be.

In our City’s downtown business district alone we are seeing resurgence in growth and redevelopment of major structures that have brought a new life and energy in our historic downtown area. More than $5 million in private investment has been made in the City’s downtown business district over the past two years that has not only improved the attractiveness of our City center, but, also brought badly needed foot traffic and life to an area that is home to the historic Edwin Long Hotel (now Phelps County Bank), historic U.S. Route 66 (Pine Street), the Rolla Public Library and several businesses and establishments that are benefiting from this new growth.

Just a couple of blocks east of the downtown business, the new Benton Square Development, that includes at least five properties, and numerous businesses, has resulted in at least $3 million in private investment. Spearheaded by successful business owners Dan Klinski and Steven Scholz, the Benton Square development is the anchor for Rolla’s new Arts and Entertainment District that was recently approved by the Rolla City Council. To say that the Benton Square development will help to put Rolla on the map as a destination City similar to that of a Hannibal, Hermann or Washington, is no stretch of the imagination. Rolla is already known for its tremendous cultural assets such as Leach Theatre and the Castleman Hall Performing Arts Center, Ozark Actors Theatre, Cedar Street Center, Orval Reeves Gallery and Arts Rolla! The Benton Square development will only help to solidify the City’s reputation for arts and culture, and a great place to spend a day, an evening or the weekend. In addition, it is projected that the development will create as many as 100 new jobs. The ripple effect of this type of investment and growth benefits many sectors of the Rolla economy, but most notably economic development.

Investment in the Rolla community is not just limited to Rolla’s business district and Benton Square, although considering the state of the national economy and Missouri’s economy, the investment in these two areas alone would be noteworthy. Missouri University of Science and Technology is also experiencing a benchmark year with record-high student enrollment, the future construction of a new $2.7 million Student Design Center (to be located at the corner of 10th and Bishop Avenue); and construction of the first new building in the new Innovation Park on the Missouri S&T campus on 10th Street. These projects are on the heels of the new state-of-the-art, $29 million Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building known as Toomey Hall on the Missouri S&T campus. Innovation and technology have been associated with Missouri S&T and the Rolla area for over 100 years, and the realization of the beginning of the new Innovation Park will further establish Rolla’s world-wide reputation as a City steeped in innovation and technology.

The third area of significant investment in the Rolla area includes the expansion and construction of several restaurants, including Napoli’s Italian Restaurant, (Hwy. 72 South); the expansion of Gordoz Restaurant on Bishop Highway; the newly opened Papa Murphy’s in Bishop Commons (Hwy. 63 South); and the soon to open El Sombrero’s, located in Summit Plaza on Hwy. 63 North (next to Lowe’s).

In terms of retail investment and development, the Rolla Daily News recently reported that Shoe Sensation, a regional chain of family-owned shoe stores, will be opening sometime this spring in the Forum Shopping Center where the Sam Goody’s was formerly located. The RDN states reports that other businesses will also be occupying storefronts in the Forum Shopping Center as well. In addition to creating more jobs and shopping opportunities, greater retail expansion and development makes the Rolla area much more attractive to new businesses and industries considering locating in the Rolla area.

A fourth area that is showing signs of life, and one area that is a clear indicator to economic activity in the City, is construction. Compared to fiscal year 2009, which was a very low year of construction activity, early indications for fiscal year 2010 show a significant increase in construction activity with first quarter activity of $6.4 million and permit fees of $35,867. While there is relatively less activity in single-family homes there is considerable activity in multi-family construction and commercial construction. Growth attracts growth, and development attracts development, and abundance creates more abundance. So let’s celebrate our successes, play to our strengths, and keep the momentum going through the first year of this new decade!

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