Springfield, Mo. -- The state's economy took center stage Friday afternoon when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon stopped in Springfield. He announced a new point person to help bring jobs to the state. The announcement comes at a time when unemployment is down to 8.2 percent in the Springfield area, but many in the Ozarks are still looking for work.
Staffers at the Missouri Career Center on Glenstone Avenue in Springfield say 400-500 new job seekers come through their doors every week.
"This is a really really strange transition for me, because for years I wore the uniform," said U.S. Military Veteran Dennis Hill.
Hill served stints in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea, but now he's out of the military. He is looking for work in the transportation industry to support his wife and two children.
"I am a retired veteran," said Hill.
"I have coordination skills to be able to move supplies, personnel equipment, vehicles," he said.
Job seekers like Hill are looking to state and local leaders for some good news. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced in a news conference Friday at the Jordan Valley Innovative Center in Springfield that Jason Hall, the director of the Missouri Technology Corporation, will be joining his executive team. Hall will serve as Missouri's director of economic development.
"To brand and grow ourselves to attract more investment, create more jobs, and build stronger communities," said Hall, about his plans for the state's growth, at the conference Friday.
Overall the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce says the area added more than 3,600 jobs in 2011. Joe McManmie is one of the area's success stories.
"I didn't have a job for three and half months. I was actually doing landscaping," said McManmie.
McManmie was looking for a full-time job when an opportunity came up with Gold Mountain communications. The company nearly doubled its hiring in 2011, adding 140 people to its payroll.
"I am very fortunate and very blessed to have a job in this economy where I didn't have to move. I like raising kids in Springfield; that's where I was raised," said McManmie.
There are other success stories as well. Paul Mueller Company added more than 200 jobs in 2011. Statewide Governor Nixon says more than ten-thousand manufacturing jobs were added in the last year.
"I mention that because that was one of the parts of our strategic plan--to quit making things other places and make them here and expand that manufacturing base in a new way," said Nixon.
Even with all the new jobs, thousands more are still looking for work. The abandoned Solo Cup Plant in Springfield is a reminder of the jobs that have slowly filtered out of the Ozarks.
"Only thing you can do is just put in applications and wait and pray and hope that something will come up the first of the year," said Hill.
Governor Nixon says the state will work with local leaders to attract manufacturing and other jobs to the Ozarks. However, he said one of the state's primary focuses will be new technologies and help for entrepreneurs.