From #bringbackthebloom to a completion date for the I-49 corridor, positive energy is evident in Neosho. At the quarterly Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce update, Wake-Up Wednesday, participants heard news from the city of Neosho, Newton County, the Neosho School District, Crowder College, GROW NEOSHO and the Chamber.

Each had five minutes to share an update.

Neosho City Manager Leland Butcher was the first to share the latest.

"What a great day to be in Neosho," Butcher said. He referenced the recent public meeting, part of the process in applying for a grant for flood damage from 2017. "We will be contacting property owners who were affected by the April 2017 flood. This is going to be a long process."

Butcher also noted that projects are in the works to bring traffic lights to the intersections of Hammer Road and Missouri Highway 86 and Gateway Drive at 86. Another effort underway is what Butcher called a 25/30 effort.

"We want to know how our city will look in 25 years, in 30," Butcher said. A series of meetings to address this will take place in the near future. "You are key stakeholders in our community. We have some big issues to address. If you don't have a plan, you fail.

Newton County Commissioner Jim Jackson asked those present, "When was the last time you visited our courthouse?"

Jackson says long-needed renovations are underway and should be completed soon.

"It's going to look super nice when it's finished," Jackson said. "It's been more than 20 years since we've done any remodeling so it's overdue."

Dr. Jim Cummins, Neosho Superintendent of Schools, provided current details about the district.

"We're focused on project based learning and pathways to career or college," Cummins said. "We're very committed to the 5 C's in education, which are critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and leadership and character. We are dedicated to a high level of of excellence in education in our district."

Cummins also provided the latest on the Goodman Elementary School project. The original school was destroyed when a tornado struck the Goodman community two years ago.

"Goodman is on target," Cummins said. "We may be moving in the week before school starts but I believe we will make it."

Cummins also said that a no-tax bond issue will be placed on the April 2020 ballot to complete some academic space, including tornado shelters for schools that lack them.

"We're also looking into updating our athletic facilities," Cummins said. "They remain the same as when I left them a long time ago."

Cummins is a 1984 graduate of Neosho High School.

Cindy Brown, Director of Public Information at Crowder College, provided the update for the college. Brown noted that summer enrollment is now open and that summer financial aid will be available.

Mike Franks, GROW NEOSHO, made his final public appearance as executive director. He introduced his successor.

"The most important thing today is to introduce you to Jake Heisten, the new executive director," he said. "We have a lot of good things about Neosho that are happening."

Franks stated that the date for the completion of I-49 at the Missouri-Arkansas state line has been announced and will take place in 2022. "Data indicates that there is usually a 50% business increase in the first two years after completion."

He expects this will positively impact Neosho. "We are seeing growth in our town. We have a lot of expansion going on around town."

Missouri Sugars is undergoing work that will double the size and capacity of the facility. Praxair is currently engaged in a 14 million dollar expansion that will double their operation.

"Let's all work together, grow together and support Neosho," Franks said in closing.

Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lauri Lyerla reported that membership in the chamber is up.

"We've had 57 new members since January," she said. "#bringbackthebloom has been more than I ever imagined. We've posted 64 jobs this month from members and our Facebook reach will be 100K this week."

As part of the #bringbackthebloom campaign to revive the Flowerbox City traditions, the world's largest flower box on North College Street is being renovated.

The special speaker for the quarterly update was Bill Snow, vice-president of La-Z-Boy Midwest in Neosho.

"Fifty years ago, La-Z-B Boy Midwest came to Neosho and broke ground," Snow said. He presented a short video detailing the history of the La-Z-Boy company from its' beginnings in the 1920's to the present. Later this year, La-Z-Boy Midwest plans a public celebration of their 50th anniversary in Neosho. "We have some of the best employees here in Neosho and we make some of the best furniture in the world.

La-Z-Boy Midwest came to Neosho in May 1969 to break ground on a manufacturing plant. By March 1970, the first 4 employees were in place. Today, 17,873,121 units have been built at the Neosho plant.

"We're almost at our 18th millionth chair," Snow said. "The most valuable asset we have is our employees."

This marks the second year for the Wake-Up Wednesday quarterly updates, according to Ashley Siler, Director of Communications and Membership Development. "Grey Oak Investments has been our presenting sponsor since day one," she said. "Robert DeVore has really helped make this what it is, this was really his brainchild."

The event was well-attended with a full house.