The past, present & future of the Lake of the Ozarks
By Carissa Biele
Sat, 11 May 2013 18:45:00 GMT — Before the Lake of the Ozarks came a dam, and before the dam came farmland. Dwight Weaver, a local freelance historian, said, "The Lake covered the best farm land that they had in Camden County and on over into Miller County in the river bottom so the whole economy here changed. Before that it was agriculture, lumbering, and mining, then they changed the whole thing to recreation." Back then, due to the great depression in the 1930s and rationing for World War II in the 1940s, the Lake's economy got off to a slow start. Soon after, Dwight said, "In the 1950s and 60s, the area just opened up after WWII and boom!" By 1960, there is record of 300 waterfront resorts. Over the next 20 years, larger resorts and condo complexes started building up on the shoreline. There was a significant slowdown on development projects and the housing market from 2008 to 2012 because of the nation's economy. There were a lot of business that went broke during that time. Now, the Lake economy and population is growing, with several expansions over the last several years, including the Sunrise Beach toll-bridge, Highway 5 and a new expressway, Johnnie Franzeskos, the mayor of the city of Lake Ozark, said, â??The economy is picking up here. We have the new 'Eagles Landing' now with three business in it. We hope to see more. A new theater is going up which should be done by this summer." The theater project alone opened up 230 new jobs for the community. Wendy White, the Executive Director of the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said, "As those areas are developed people move in to take those jobs and it just continues to snowball." Now it's the 21st century and we are in what Dwight Weaver said is the "Cosmopolitan phase. All the big box stores and national brands are coming in. It's a whole different kind of thing." A difference not everyone - especially small business owners - may be happy about. White said she thinks there is room for both. "Overall we still have a lot of small businesses, I don't think they'll ever get replaced by big box stores," she said. "As population grows there is a need for all of that." Dave Van Dee, Lake Ozark city administrator, saidthe city has issued 49 new residental building permits and 11 new commercial building permits since Jan 1, 2009. Van Dee said, â??There are businesses in various discussion phases but nothing ready with a formal announcement.â?? The Chamber of Commerce is seeing the area become less of a seasonal area and more of a year-round location as well. White said, "A lot of baby boomers are retiring here so we are really seeing that change from seasonal to year round living." When it comes to predicting the future, all one can do is guess. "If I had to guess, I look back at the last 30 years and I look for it to just double again," White said. Dwight had a guess of his own. â??I think we will see a whole new strip here in a few years," he said.
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