Why would the nationally revered 60 Minutes care about this tiny, remote corner of the world? Because sometimes the most obscure news is the most compelling news of all.
The gist of the 60 Minutes story was that this quiet, unassuming town had — over the course of roughly 25 years and for no immediately apparent reason — attracted a number of prominent shows and theaters, backed by some of the day’s biggest names in country-western music: names like Roy Clark and Mickey Gilley.
And that was, literally, just the beginning.
After the 60 Minutes episode aired in December 1991, Branson’s days of gradual growth were over. Tourists flocked to the area by the tens of thousands, while other big-name acts vied to open their own shows there.
Today, the population of Branson remains relatively small, with 7,000 or so full-time residents, but it attracts 8 million visitors each year – which, according to Branson City Administrator Terry Dody, requires his team to manage infrastructure, utilities, and emergency services as if the population was closer to 100,000 full-time residents.
As one might expect, Branson is not the only beneficiary of the local transformation. Nearby communities, like Hollister (southeast of Branson, just across Lake Taneycomo), has doubled its population in the last seven years — making it the third fastest-growing city in Missouri.
In the midst of this success story, the members of the local Suddenlink team, led by System Manager Terrill Bradley, have become respected partners, praised by community leaders for their cooperation and focus on customer care.
“We really appreciate Suddenlink’s commitment to this area, making sure our residents have access to the same services available in larger cities like Springfield,” said Rick Ziegenfuss, Hollister City Administrator. “It’s very refreshing to have a local business partner that understands our challenges and opportunities and keeps up with our needs.”
Of course, “keeping up” is no easy task.
According to Bob Whittaker, Suddenlink’s construction supervisor in Branson, his crew submitted 143 “requests to build” (RTBs) in 2006 for extensions of the cable plant to new subdivisions, hotels, and other facilities. That’s an average of more than 10 RTB’s per month – a rate that’s approximately five times greater than comparably sized Suddenlink systems. And that pace of change is not expected to slow down anytime soon.
Regardless of the pace, the local Suddenlink team enjoys the challenge, and they’ve done an impressive job of serving their customers while growing their business.
They also share the area’s down-home hospitality.
“Whether you’re into shows or outdoor activities, we’ve got something for everyone,” Bradley said — a sentiment that was echoed by Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. (Summers, incidentally, is a cable veteran himself, having worked in the industry between 1981 and 1999.)
“We always tell potential visitors that, if they’ve never been here, Branson will surprise them,” Summers said. “Most people don’t realize that, today, less than half our shows feature country-western music. We also offer variety shows, comedians, magic acts, ventriloquists, plus a great list of museums, abundant shopping, three beautiful lakes and prestigious golf courses for outdoor activities … and much, much more.”