Branson - Homegrown Tools

Branson, MO

Updated: 2022

Branson, with a local economy reliant on theater-based tourism, doesn’t rest on its laurels. Local leaders pursue a large mixed-use project to diversify Branson’s economy and to increase year-round employment.

Median Household Income2020$44,184
Poverty Rate 202022.3%
Proximity to Urban Center 45 miles to Springfield, Mo.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 45 miles
Case Study Time Frame 1997-2006
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case StudyUpdated: Branson, 2022

Branson is a small town in the southwest corner of Missouri that attracts 7 million visitors every year (2 million more than the Grand Canyon). 60 Minutes has proclaimed Branson the “country-music capital of the universe” with more theater seats than Broadway. To diversify its tourism industry and create more year-round job opportunities, the town has just completed a $420 million retail and convention center project that required the largest tax increment financing project in the history of Missouri.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Small communities can create record-breaking projects. Branson illustrates how a small city can undertake a project one might think would be possible only in a very large city. The city saw a need for a convention center and extended that vision into a massive retail and residential space that has strengthened and diversified the city’s economy. Small towns can push boundaries and expand on visions for the projects and programs they are about to undertake. Branson did not limit its vision but believed it could create an exceptional project, even if the city had to ask the state to approve an unprecedented TIF package.


Successful public investments can have ripple effects throughout the community. The Branson Landing project created spin-off investments throughout the community. Branson recently added a $12 million recreation center and approved its first industrial park. The industrial park will help to spur more year-round employment and draw younger residents to this community. Furthermore, the new developments will help to sustain this economy. “This is going to be a longer, steadier growth period than the boom that occurred in the ‘90s,” Mike Rankin said.


Strategies are more likely to be successful when they are built on existing assets. Projects such as Branson Landing have to be constructed on a secure foundation within the context of a community’s strengths and assets. Branson’s tourism industry has thrived and grown for nearly a century, eventually becoming the city’s strongest and largest asset. Branson Landing would not have been a success without Branson’s status as a regional tourism destination. Branson demonstrates how small towns with successful industries, whether tourism or boat-building, can leverage this strength to diversify their growth. Branson used its strength in entertainment tourism to pursue other sectors of the economy that enhance tourism while providing more stable employment.