The Neosho community is growing - thanks, in part to the efforts put forth by Grow Neosho.

Working in tandem with the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Neosho, Newton County, Crowder College and the Neosho School District, Grow Neosho is committed to Neosho's ongoing expansion. Jake Heistand, CEO of Grow Neosho, recently talked with The Neosho Daily News what Grow Neosho does.

"We are the economic development authority for Neosho and the surrounding communities," Heistand said. "We are tasked with business recruitment, expansion and retention. That's largely our focus. We work with all area businesses and industries that want our help. We're happy to help anyone grow in Neosho, that's pretty much what we do."

Currently, the focus is on recruitment and expansion. Heistand has two specific projects he'd like to see come to fruition for Neosho.

"We're working to attract another hotel," he said. "We want more of a name brand hotel, like a Holiday Inn Express, a Hilton or a Marriott. We'd also like to find a destination type restaurant. We also like to continue trying to attract some additional retail that we don't have."

A destination restaurant would be something that's not available in the immediate area and, as the name indicates, it would be one that would bring people to Neosho specifically to dine.

According to Heistand, the number of hotel rooms booked in Neosho was an eye-opener.

"We did not have a full grasp on how many business people are coming to Neosho and not staying overnight. If they stay here, they'll eat here and they'll want to come back and stay here. It (a name brand hotel chain) is something we're focusing on now and working multiple avenues to get that to happen. It's finding the right developer with the capacity, that has a good reputation, that will take on the project."

The Highway 60 corridor between I-49 leading into Neosho is the area Heistand pegs for growth.

"As far as hotel, restaurant and retail, that is the area we would be looking out. It may not work out that way but that's what we're going to market."

In favor for that corridor include the adjacent access to retailers that include Aldi and Walmart as well as several dining options.

Heistand sees the Highway 86 corridor as more of a transportation hub.

"We've already got Love's Truck Stop, White Oak Station, the Freightliner Service Center, Branco and New-Mac," he said. "With the proximity to the highway and with the service center, that's more general to transportation and distribution. Now if a hotel wants to open out there, thats entirely up to them."

Heistand is working toward collaborative three and five year plans for the area. Grow Neosho also is working with both the Neosho School District and Crowder College on workforce development, on filling jobs with new graduates.

The upcoming 2020 Census is also vital.

"With the census next year, that's a big deal with the city and the county," Heistand stated. "We know the area is growing but we want to get a number. We need it to be as accurate as possible so we'll be encouraging everyone to participate. That number can help us attract what we're looking for, in additional retail and things like that."

Heistand is a native of Carthage, Missouri. He graduated from Carthage High School, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Missouri Southern State University. Before taking the reins of Grown Neosho from Mike Franks, Heistand worked for 8 eights for Congressman Billy Long. Before that, he spent 4 1/2 years working for the Missouri State Senate.

"Most of my career has been in government and public service."

He and wife, Rachel, make their home in the Seneca area.

"We have four wild and wonderful kids, all under 5," he said, noting that the oldest will soon turn five. Heistand enjoys the outdoors, hunting and fishing. His family lives next to his in-laws farm with 260 acres in pasture and timber.

"I feel lucky to be where I am and very happy to be where I am," Heistand said. "I love working on the local level."

He summarized the role of Grow Neosho by saying, "We want good business and we want good industry. We want to work with our current industry to grow and expand. And, we're not going to turn away anyone with a good, sound operation. We have to find a way to work together for the common good - the growth of Neosho."

Grow Neosho is located at 308 West Spring Street in Neosho, neighbors with the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce. For more information about Grow Neosho, call l-417-451-2945.