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Day in the Life with Matt Morrow

May 30, 2018

Posted online

As the workday begins on an unseasonably warm late May morning, Matt Morrow intently checks his phone even before he walks across the Community Foundation of the Ozarks parking lot.

He’s right on time for a 7:30 a.m. meeting of the Healthy Living Alliance Advisory Council, a network of Springfield community members working to encourage healthy and active living. It’s the start of a packed day for Morrow, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce president.

Morrow’s workdays typically begin at 7-7:30, usually for a meeting, but he tries to limit evening commitments to a couple times a week. That can be erratic, he says, but making time for wife Rachael and children Anna, 14, and Alex, 11, is a priority.

Much of the early morning meeting involves the council listening to a presentation from Scott Good, a consultant with Crescendo Consulting Group, regarding mental health and substance abuse. Morrow’s morning schedule is tight enough that he has to duck out early to make a tax reform program at Hartman & Co. Inc., where he is one of the scheduled speakers.

“I hate to do that,” he says sheepishly, after exiting the meeting.

Speaking engagements in a week can number between four and eight.

As the 9 a.m. program begins, Mary Beth Hartman, executive vice president of the company, initially refers to Morrow as Matt Blunt – a slip of the tongue, as Morrow is seated next to Sen. Roy Blunt, the father of the former Missouri governor. Hartman, who also serves on the executive committee of the chamber as assistant treasurer, quickly corrects herself, and Morrow laughs it off.

“I’ve been called lots of things, but never anything better than Matt Blunt,” he says in his opening remarks, eliciting laughter from the audience. Before introducing the Missouri senator, Morrow makes some brief comments about federal tax reform and the local impact they’re having for individuals and businesses.

“It’s really remarkable now to begin to see those benefits starting to unfold and that growth happening at a very grassroots level right here in our own business community,” Morrow says. “And it’s exciting to watch that take place.”

As the event wraps up, Morrow takes time to chat with a several in attendance before heading into the chamber office for the first time that day. There, he drops in on an in-progress training meeting for participants in the Springfield Regional Economic Partnership before a chamber luncheon involving almost 100 former and current board members of the organization.

At the luncheon, a midyear overview is presented, along with a look toward the remainder of 2018, which includes a community leadership visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in September and an Aug. 1 State of the State event in Springfield featuring new Gov. Mike Parson. Morrow says Parson has a “long-standing great relationship” with the chamber.

“We covered a lot of ground today,” Morrow says, taking a few minutes to eat after his work during the luncheon.

The luncheon is held annually in addition to a separate reception for the current and former board members – a practice that has been going on for years.

“There were a lot of good habits in place when I got here,” he says. He took over as president in 2014.

With Diet Coke in hand, Morrow makes the walk back around 1:30 p.m. from the luncheon location in the chamber building to his corner office, where he gets caught up on emails and voicemails piling up throughout the day. Lots of family photos surround his desk, while one of his walls is filled with him in photographs signed by various politicians, including Sen. Blunt, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. On the latter photo, Morrow says it was when Thatcher spoke at the College of the Ozarks in 1997 and he was working for Ashcroft.

Justin Coyan, the chamber’s manager of business development, drops by the office for a 2:30 economic development briefing. The two cover a project activity report that rates a number of ongoing economic development prospects, which uses code names and a rating system of 1-4 stars, with 1 being “suspect” and 4 being “strong prospect.” There are no retailers on the list, as Morrow says the chamber focuses more on the manufacturing industry to build the base jobs that support the community.

A weekly planning and speech prep session at 3:30 is next on Morrow’s agenda, which generally focuses on the June 7 Good Morning, Springfield event. The meeting with communications team members Jeremy Elwood and Jennifer McClure is brief, as Mayor Ken McClure will be presenting the State of the City address, and Morrow says that will take up the majority of the program.

After a brief return to his office, Morrow meets McClure in the large meeting space to film a video recapping recent chamber events. Morrow reads from a prompter on an iPad, while McClure directs him for the segment that will be added onto the chamber website for the benefit of its membership, currently 1,528 strong.

Several staff members plan for the weekly 5:30 whiffle ball game, as the chamber is part of a downtown league that runs May–August. Morrow is unable to join today, because of a dinner commitment with Blunt, McClure and Missouri State University President Clif Smart. He also has a post-dinner event to get ready for, with several of the chamber staff and their families planning to enjoy the 7:30 p.m. performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

As a three-time viewer of “The Phantom,” Morrow brings up the well-known production multiple times during the day – clearly looking forward to ending the day on a good note.

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