by Don Lowe / Photo by Mandy Edmonson

As a native son of Southwest Missouri and the current director of research and innovations at Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri, Dr. Chett Daniel is passionate about what the coming weeks months, years and decades might bring to this area with potential expansion across what seems a rapidly growing region. 

   While things have evolved quite a bit in recent years, there’s a new initiative known as Sho Up 36˚ 94˚ which Dr. Daniel conveys, “Is the name of a volunteer-led, grassroots community-development group that is working to make the Neosho area an even better place to live, work, play and raise families. 

   “The volunteer steering group began meeting last winter and this past spring. We had our first public informational meeting in the middle of September. We plan to partner with as many existing organizations as possible to avoid duplicating efforts. 

   “How to holistically address community development and placemaking has been a shared discussion among individuals who work in a variety of roles throughout the community over the past several months. 

   “Through a separate initiative hosted by Crowder College, I began meeting with regional leaders in community and economic development and inviting speakers from outside our area to share content related to innovative approaches in community development to attract and retain talent. 

   “The steering group recognized a need to address these issues at the local level and has been collaborating with various stakeholder groups, explaining areas of need.” 

   Since Dr. Daniel has taken a leading role, he provides big-picture perspective: “It’s important for people to understand community development is economic development. In public talks I’ve delivered the past few months, I discussed the way economic and community development is changing. 

   “When Southwest Missouri was founded 150 years ago, people moved to where opportunities were. People were looking for unsettled land and new beginnings. Rural economies became more industrial about 70 years ago, and talent moved where the jobs were located. Today, we are seeing a new shift with a growing digital economy and remote work opportunities.

   “Increasingly, jobs are moving to where the talent is at, and talent is moving to where culture and amenities are located. 

   “Northwest Arkansas realized if they were going to recruit and retain the talent needed to make their region’s economy more vibrant and anti-fragile, they had to ensure their communities were places people wanted to live, work, play and raise families.” 

   It’s obvious the completed I-49 corridor could be a boost for Southwest Missouri, and Dr. Daniel stresses, “We have an opportunity to grow and become more resilient. Improved facilities within the Neosho School District have provided a tremendous head start on recent community improvement in its educational facilities. 

   “We need to keep up the momentum and continue to ask, ‘What does a community that wants to retain young people and attract new families and businesses look like?’ And, then work on creating it.” 

   Dr. Daniel believes words from Alexi de Tocqueville’s book, ‘Democracy in America’ are relevant. In it, de Tocqueville wrote, “Democracy becomes real when people decide and take action to create the kind of community they want.” de Tocqueville also observed, “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” 

   Dr. Daniel is thrilled to be amongst so many who live here who all share a similar vision for the future, and he emphasizes, “It’s encouraging to live in a community that continues to look ahead and take action to create the kind of community they want.” 


Dr. Chett Daniel/Sho Up 36˚ 94˚ Fast Facts

The Definition of Sho Up 36˚ 94˚

   ‘Sho’ – The phrase ‘Sho’ has been associated with Neosho for several years, especially in sports settings. It’s not uncommon to see “Welcome to The Sho” signs in the stands at ball games or wrestling events.

   ‘Up’ – Can have two meanings. One meaning could be to “show up” and to be part of the change you want to see in the community. There is a common saying, “Change is made by those who show up.” Dr. Daniel, director of research and innovations at Crowder College, suggests, “Sho Up could also suggest the current trajectory of Neosho. School facilities, parks and other amenities in Neosho have improved drastically over the past few years. We are also seeing job growth among small and large businesses. We believe if the community is even more intentional and strategic, we can continue to attract and retain the talent needed for an even better community.”

   36˚ 94˚ – A reference to the lines of latitude and longitude in the region.

The Leaders

Lauri Lyerla, Steve Douglas, Jeff and Donna Jones, and Janel Wilder have been instrumental in informing early efforts with valuable insights based on their roles in the community. Dr. Daniel lauds, “These individuals serve in a variety of roles in the community but are all volunteering based on their shared love of the community and in the interest of seeing even more improvement in the Neosho area.”

The Mission

Leverage the potential of a connected community to enhance the quality of life in the Neosho area and reveal what is possible when Neosho area residents work together to create the community they want.

The Planning

There’s an online survey to collect information from the community to identify the highest-priority desires related to several different action groups. Efforts will largely be related to the following categories: neighborhood improvement; after hours activities; connected communities (walkable/bikeable); talent attraction and retention; entrepreneurship support and small business development; diversity, equality and inclusion; community wellness; and culture and arts.