2020 Most Influential Women: Ann McDowell
That gap, Ann McDowell says, is filled by strong leadership. She’s built a career on filling that gap.
“My belief is that great ideas are essential, but not very valuable without a committed champion who can turn the idea into reality, and that’s where leadership comes in,” says McDowell, co-owner of McDowell Consulting. “In my career and in my community, there always seems to be a need for leaders. And if I deemed the project challenging, the issue important or the initiative critical, I’ve raised my hand, said ‘yes’ and jumped in with both feet.”
McDowell cites some of her favorite projects, not because they ran smoothly, but because of the lessons they offered. These include:
• The 1992 opening of the Grand Palace. “Despite many bumps along the way, it was a priceless education,” McDowell says.
• The 2005 approval of the Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District tax. “This is a favorite because of how we were able to listen to the opposition, adjust the legislation, and then educate voters on the improvements and vital need for this tax,” she says. Since its passage, the area has had an additional $8 million annually to spend on marketing, up from $2 million.
• Serving as executive director of the Branson Christmas Coalition, a nonprofit designed to encourage holiday tourism. She says consumer research shows the effort had a $20 million impact on the region for 2018 and 2019.
More recently, McDowell says she’s turned her attention to helping to create and expand the 76 Community Improvement District. The public/private partnership involves more than 200 property owners along Missouri 76 and is focused on renovating and revitalizing the zone. She describes the 12-year effort as challenging, and the group recently expanded the boundaries to comprise 973 acres.
McDowell says her approach differs from other marketing consultants because “I have a hard time advising and walking away. I become a quasi-member of their team and advocate for their mission and vision,” McDowell says. “Branson is still a small town, so the success or failure of one impacts many others, as well as the success of the entire community.”
In addition to serving the interests of the Branson area professionally, McDowell has embraced a host of volunteer leadership efforts to improve quality of life. One of these efforts was in rebranding an outreach previously known as Jesus Was Homeless, which began about 10 years ago with a Thanksgiving dinner. It has since grown to provide a variety of services for people living in or at risk of poverty.
“While they were well known throughout the area, most only knew them as the organization who gave out free food to people living in substandard motel housing,” McDowell says.
She elicited help from marketing colleagues and developed a fresh vision for the outreach now known as Elevate Branson.
“That transition is still underway, but is already seeing great results. Even more exciting is the new tiny home village, which will provide desperately needed, independent, safe, secure, convenient and affordable housing,” McDowell says.