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"Capital Flight" or the "Inheritance Drain" is a problem facing many small towns. In this segment of Making a Difference Where You Live, we talk with representatives of small towns in Southwest Missouri to find out how big of a problem it is and what steps are being taken to address the issue.
Welcome to Making a Difference Where You Live, a series focusing on how volunteerism and philanthropy meet the needs of communities throughout the Ozarks. During this series, we explore a different topic each quarter, focusing in depth on the people and events making a difference here in the Ozarks.
Today on Making A Difference, we explore the topic of "Capital Flight" and hear how some local communities are working to prevent their assets from leaving.
Support for the series is provided by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Capital Flight, or as some people call it "the inheritance drain," is something that's always on the minds of those who live in and love small towns. In any small town there is usually a handful of those who serve as major contributors to a variety of causes. When those individuals pass away and their money goes to other members of their family or when longtime businesses are forced to shut down and their owners move elsewhere, that capital often leaves the community it was helping. Many communities in the Ozarks are taking steps to prevent inheritance drain or capital flight. Ron Geidd has lived in Seymour for 15 years. He says, while Seymour is concerned about capital flight, so are other small communities
But in Neosho, Missouri, city manager Jan Blase says he's not worried. He says, with the growth in Southwest Missouri and an influx of people from all over the United States, capital flight isn't much of a concern in Neosho
Growth over the last ten years has been at around a healthy 10%. But Blase expects the growth in Northwest Arkansas to spill over into McDonald and Newton counties. Healthy growth is an antidote to capital flight, and Blase says it's important that Neosho be ready for that to happen
Blase says they need to keep their infrastructure intact and their buildings and assets up-to-date
Neosho has a healthy population, but other communities may be struggling to keep their population up. Blase says it's important for communities to have a stable population in order to prevent capital flight. He says, while towns can't always count on their young people to stay, they can remain optimistic that some will return
According to Blase, Neosho has a core group of corporations, families and individuals who make up a large percentage of donations and community support. But, at the same time, support is widespread. Blase says the key to preventing assets from leaving is to embrace growth
Don Wollard has cut hair on the square in Bolivar since the 1960s. He says town residents have long supported the public school system as well as the arts
Wollard says Bolivar is fortunate to have a strong chamber of commerce, which contributes a lot to the community.
Bolivar is home to the Dunnegen Art Museum, which was made possible by the family of Ethel Curruthers. A gift from the Rail family made possible the new public library in Bolivar.
Wollard says Bolivar has many families who are strong supporters of their community, and he's confident it will always be that way
Wollard attributes the success of his town in its ability to keep assets from leaving to the fact that Bolivar isn't a bedroom community
Those in the medical field or in education have career opportunities in Bolivar. And Wollard says many who return to their hometown choose to go into business for themselves
Another community that's family oriented and tends to show a lot of support for youth and seniors programs is Mountain Grove, Missouri.
City administrator Rick Outersky says the town has a few individuals who were born and raised there and, as they've reached middle age, have begun to contribute heavily to certain causes
But, Outersky, too, worries about what will happen when major contributors pass away
Outersky's not sure how to change that, but he'd like to see more involvement by younger residents in Mountain Grove. He says the town is fortunate in that it has a strong alumni association
He says Moutain Grove is starting to see some folks come home and reinvest. According to Outersky, they'll continue to look to Mountain Grove alumni to try to help the community
Mountain Grove, Bolivar, Neosho and Seymour all have one tool in common that they're using to try to prevent capital flight or the inheritance drain—they each have a Community Foundation of the Ozarks affiliate, although Neosho's is in its very infant stages.
Ron Geidd, president of the Greater Seymour area Community Foundation says the organization is very well received and supported as much as it can be in a town with a population of 1636
Bolivar's Community Foundation, established in 2003, currently has more than 30 funds and just went above the half-million-dollar mark. Don Wollard wasn't surprised by the support
This afternoon at 4:36 as Making a Difference Where You Live continues, hear about the impact regional Community Foundations are having in the small towns that have established them.
Support for this series comes from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
For KSMU, I'm Michele Skalicky.