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Community Focus Report: Jobs get blue ribbon, wages red flag

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An examination of the area’s business community and economic development efforts in the 2017 Community Focus Report identified jobs growth among its blue-flag strengths and low wages among red-flag issues.

Officials presented the report yesterday at the Springfield Art Museum in front of a crowd filled with nonprofit, business and government leaders. The report conducted every two years examined 11 categories, three of which are highlighted below.

Business and economic development
In business and economic development, the report pointed to the blue-ribbon areas of continued growth in the local economy; a healthy education system; entrepreneurship and innovation through The eFactory, 1 Millions Cups and Ozarks Technical Community College; and the low cost of doing business, at 10 percent less than the national average.

As of July, Springfield’s total employment was up 2.4 percent to 212,000 jobs compared with a year earlier. The leading industry was trade, transportation and utilities, which increased 2.1 percent to 48,400 jobs. Education and health services was No. 2 with 38,900 jobs, a 4.6 percent bump, according to the report.

Red-flag issues in the business and economic development category were identified as education and talent development funding, as well as the impact of poverty and low wages.

The city of Springfield’s median household income is $33,557, short of Greene County’s $41,227, Missouri’s $48,173 and the nation’s $53,889, according to the report.

Housing
In the area of housing, the report identified three blue-ribbon themes and four red-flag issues.

Blue ribbons were collaborative efforts for safer homes, the expansion of inclusive housing and a streamlined network of homeless services.

Red flags included the affordability of rental housing and an increasing homeless population.

The report cited U.S. Census Bureau survey data between 2011 and 2015 showing more than 50 percent of rental homes in Greene County were not affordable. That means those living in the households spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities.

According to the report, as homeless rates have risen — to nearly 800 individuals in Springfield — so too have permanent housing units for them. Those households increased to 195 last year from 103 in 2012.

Transportation
While local transportation fared well in areas including airport traffic, an approved transportation tax and increased transit amenities, it fell short in transportation funding, transit congestion and a lack of sidewalks, according to the report.

Transportation data highlights:
    •    Passenger numbers at Springfield-Branson National Airport grew 30 percent during the last five years.
    •    Transportation funding at the state level continues to be a problem, as officials this year cut public school bus funding and public transit monies.
    •    Last year, 17 percent of local measured roadways were congested in the evening, up by 7 percent from 2005.

Designed to assess and bring attention to issues in the city and county, the report is a partnership between Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Junior League of Springfield, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Springfield Greene-County Library District and United Way of the Ozarks. It was first published in 2004.

The other categories are arts and culture, citizen participation, community health, early childhood, education, natural environment, public order and safety, and recreation, sports and leisure. The full report is available online.

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