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Springfield, the state’s third largest city, serves as a commercial center and gateway to the Ozark Mountains. The town is an important crossroads and agricultural center for livestock and poultry production, and has grown rapidly in recent years, strengthening the economy but also bringing some unattractive sprawl and contentious growth management issues. The former Southwest Missouri State University, recently renamed Missouri State, now brings some 18,000 students to town.
The Ozark Mountains provide recreation, scenic attractions and relief from summer heat. There is a strong Bible Belt influence. The large number of tourist attractions sometimes border on the tawdry. Branson, Missouri, a glittery entertainment and recreation center aimed at country music fans, is 40 miles south. Branson’s recent, rapid growth has helped the economy and put the area on the national map, but it has also brought some unwanted tourist impact. The cost of living and housing cost profiles are attractive and consistent with the rest of the region.
The flat to gently rolling terrain, located on an Ozark Mountain plateau, contains areas of mixed deciduous forest and farmland. The higher Ozarks and numerous, wooded creek valleys extend to the south and west into Arkansas. The climate is continental and “plateau,” characterized by mild and changeable weather similar to other high places in southerly latitudes. Ozark winters are considerably milder and summers are appreciably cooler than conditions in nearby lower elevations. Hot, humid spells and cold can occur, but pockets of mountain air usually moderate them. First freeze is mid-October, last is mid-April.
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