Aurora is one of two Missouri communities selected to participate in the second phase of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Growth in the Rural Ozarks (GRO) economic development program.

Aurora, along with Buffalo, makes up the second round of GRO participants. The two-year initiative is co-funded by local community partners and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. It is supported by local government, schools and other stakeholders, as well as the Aurora Area Community Foundation, a CFO affiliate foundation. GRO programming is aimed at promoting job creation, entrepreneurship and economic and workforce development in the rural Ozarks.

Marshfield, Salem and Sarcoxie are currently wrapping up their second year as the inaugural three-year GRO cohort.

To help gather data about Aurora and the perceptions of the community by its residents, GRO Aurora organizers ask citizens and stakeholders take a few minutes to fill out a quick survey, which can be found online at

“I have attended a number of GRO meetings where the city leaders for Sarcoxie, Marshfield and Salem have made their presentations. Just being around those who have been working the GRO program has generated a spark in our community that is becoming infectious,” said Aurora attorney and former Aurora Area Community Foundation Board Chair Scott Pettit. “We have restarted our Economic Development committee that has been in hibernation for years. We have civic leaders from all points of the community coming together for the betterment of the town and its inhabitants. We are all very excited to hit the ground running in 2018.”

Local stakeholders are required to contribute $10,000 annually for the duration of the two-year planning and implementation process, a commitment met in Aurora with the help of First Independent Bank, Community National Bank, Empire, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, the John J. Lee Memorial Fund, the Aurora Mercy Hospital Board, the Aurora Rotary Club, and the City of Aurora. The GRO outline calls for a two-year planning and implementation process, with Innovation Economy Partners, led by Hrishue Mahalaha, working with local stakeholders to develop the plan.

“I am excited for Aurora that we have been selected to participate in GRO,” said John Paul Lee, Vice President of Community National Bank and a board member for the Aurora Area Community Foundation. “I believe that we can maximize Aurora’s potential in many different areas. I am looking forward to this collaborative effort of working towards an integrated economic plan.”

“The Aurora Chamber of Commerce is excited to begin the process of strengthening Aurora’s economic outlook through GRO 2.0 by working with community members to reach our economic development potential, to bring pride and unity back into our community,” said Shannon Walker, Executive Director of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.

GRO is facilitated by Cleveland-based Innovation Economy Partners. Mahalaha, IEP’s managing partner, will assist each town through monthly visits to identify, implement and sustain effective strategies for economic growth.

“We are thrilled to expand the GRO program to Buffalo and Aurora starting January 2018. Both of these communities are well positioned with local leadership teams in place to make the program quite successful,” Mahalaha said. “Thanks to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and USDA Rural Development, we are on the brink of establishing a truly scalable and impactful economic development program for the Ozarks and beyond.”

The Aurora Area Community Foundation is one of the 49 affiliate foundations of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. It serves Aurora and surrounding areas through asset and resource development, philanthropic leadership and community grantmaking. The AACF holds assets of more than $4 million as of September 30.