From Missouri Development Guide 2021

South Central Missouri: ENDLESS OPPORTUNITY

Region Profile – South Central
Photos courtesy Missouri Partnership

In the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, South Central Missouri is made up of 12 counties and includes the cities of Poplar Bluff and West Plains. 

Known as the Gateway to the Ozarks, the region is centrally located between St. Louis, 
Memphis and Little Rock via I-57. With interstate access via US 60, 63, 67 and 160, to Class 1 railroads, moving goods to market is easy. The Southeast Missouri Port on the Mississippi is within 1 hour drive from the city and provides unrestricted access to the Gulf of Mexico and the globe. 

A smaller community of 17,000, Poplar Bluff offers an affordable, skilled and educated workforce. The broader trade area boasts a population of 168,000. Three Rivers College, a public two-year institution provides higher education opportunities to the region, enrolling more than 3,000 students annually. 

Poplar Bluff is home to a large and growing advanced manufacturing sector. The region also has a healthy mix of health care, retail and education. 

The city is home to a large Briggs & Stratton presence, which expanded in 2019 and created 130 new jobs in the region. Several other longtime companies in the region have also recently expanded their operations including New Wave Communications with the addition of 40-60 new jobs. Empire Comfort Systems built its new 130,000 sq. ft.

manufacturing facility in 2019. The expansion represented $10 million investment and brought 140 new jobs to the region. 

Poplar Bluff has a large Opportunity Zone that encompasses part of the downtown area and more than half of the city’s population. The city along with several developers have begun redevelopment plans to spur economic activity in the downtown area. 

Nearby West Plains has strengths in metalworking, plastics, agriculture, wood processing and healthcare, and boasts a workforce pool of 60,000. And being situated in the Ozark Mountains, the outdoor opportunities are endless. 

Savannah King
Managing Editor of Custom Content

Savannah King

Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.


Missouri's strengths are only getting stronger as the state builds momentum, reduces red tape, encourages entrepreneurs and builds a better workforce — all for the benefit of business in the Show Me State.

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