Chamber Touts ‘Invest In Home’ To Keep Warsaw’s Economy Moving

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Investing in home, and planning for economic development are crucial strategies for communities that want to prosper and enhance the local quality of life. The Warsaw Chamber of Commerce is focusing on Shopping Locally as a way to invest in home and encourage members to look inside the county first for support and services. reports that multiple studies have shown small businesses reinvesting in the local economy at a higher rate than chain stores. For every $100 spent at one of these businesses, for example, $68 stays in the community. Shopping locally can help create more local jobs; enhance the diversity of products and services; strengthen local networks; boost environmental stability and increase real estate values. 
Examples of Warsaw businesses that are in tune with shopping locally are The Landing, Bill’s Repurpose Shop, and Parkfield Inn.  One of the owners of The Landing, Jamie Lux, used to buy products used for food preparation from a large, out-of-town corporation.  He now buys his salsa locally, gets his coffee from Red Wing Coffee and Roastery, honey from Paul’s Honey Farm and is working on buying his herbs and spices locally too. Martha Fann, owner of Bill’s Repurpose store belongs to an unofficial merchant’s downtown association that refers customers to other businesses on Main Street for items that they can’t provide in their own stores.  
“For instance,” said Fann. “One customer was looking for a ladder in my store and I didn’t have one. So I referred that person to the Antique Mall.”
Parkfield Inn is another local business that buys its food and milk from Walmart or Country Mart to use at its hotel on a daily basis.
Economic development is also important, not only to local cities, but to Benton County as a whole. Plans are in the works to build prosperity through a pilot program from the University of Missouri Extension Office through workshops.
Benton County residents from all walks of life and a variety of locations met in Warsaw’s Community Building on January 24, to take on the task of Building Local Prosperity. The meeting was the first of three that will culminate in March with plans of action for achieving high priority economic goals and an enhanced quality of life in the county.
“There were 50 representatives from such fields as agriculture, banking, schools, business, lodging, government and health care,” said Mac Vorce, Director of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce. “I even updated Sheriff Knox throughout the day on what took place at the meeting, since he was unable to attend.”
Vorce said that groups sat at individual tables with large paper tablets on easels. They wrote down information about their views of our assets, needs, infrastructure, organizations, leaders, and the challenges that had to be met to better use assets and meet our local needs. Then, each table’s ideas and information were prioritized, and about 30 main ideas became six. Some of the concerns included the need for more fiber optics, converting Hwy 65 south of Warsaw to a four-lane road, and workforce development.
“The information developed by this diversified group of attendees, was taken by the University of Missouri Extension office, who facilitated the meeting,” said Vorce. “During the Phase II meeting on February 14, Extension personnel will compile and review it, and look at how to overcome challenges for the highest priority items. They will hold onto the other information for a later time.”
Vorce said that during the Phase III meeting, in March, an action plan will be made based on thoughts and ideas brought forth from the first two meetings. This action plan may be in the form of a five or ten-year plan.
Lynette Stokes, Director of Benton County Tourism and Recreation (BCTR), said that last year there were workshops offered to businesses in the area on marketing strategies. BCTR wanted to build on what was offered last year and while researching other workshops, Stokes came across the Building Local Prosperity workshop put on by the University of Missouri Extension, Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Program. 
“This workshop was being offered as a pilot program to four or five communities at a discounted price, and we jumped on it,” said Stokes. “Kansas City Power & Light, the County and Benton County Tourism were all partners in funding. BCTR hosted the meeting by first taking the idea to the County Commission, the three Cities and the Chambers. People who attended the meeting had a lot of good ideas and input and want to see continued growth and prosperity in the county.”
For more information about the Building Local Prosperity Phase II and Phase III meetings, contact Lynette Stokes at 660-438-2090, or
During the Warsaw State of the Chamber meeting on January 17, members also discussed strengths and needs in the City and began planning how to use assets and address concerns.
“We discussed the multiple buildings that are available in town, what to do with them, and what support we would have,” said Vorce. We talked about needing more jobs, but also about the fact that there are also many jobs in the city that need applicants. Since we have lost about 200 students in the city in the last decade, we discussed how to bring in young families.”