Springfield, MO

What is Springfield’s identity, and how can the community cultivate it?

Dusting for Fingerprints

Posted online

Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, universities, doughnuts, restaurants – on the streets of Springfield, residents and visitors have varying opinions of what identifies the Queen City.

Some of the answers collected from a Springfield Business Journal survey this month are positive responses, while others express discouragement.

But it all contributes to the fingerprint of the city.

Founded in February, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s visioning committee is compiling a document of Visions and Values – highlighting a vision statement, initiatives matching city identity and values to back up initiatives. The current product is an internal working document used by the committee to summarize community feedback.

Current initiatives listed in the document are Outdoors Everywhere, Economic Catalysts, Community Infrastructure, Workforce and Talent Pipeline, and Safe, Healthy and Welcoming Community. Projects for city improvement and development can be categorized within initiatives, President Matt Morrow said, and vetted against values.

Cultivating an identity is not difficult, Morrow said, it just takes precision.

“The first thing that has to happen is you have to accurately identify what that identity is. You don’t create an identity; you uncover it,” he said, noting the committee does not have a timeline for completion. “So you start with an authentic identity of what the community is and then, from there, there is a sense of momentum.”

Britton Jobe, a partner at law firm Neale & Newman LLP, said he observed this energy last month in Boise, Idaho, during the Community Leadership Visit – the chamber’s annual trip for businesspeople to learn about the successes and developments of other cities.

“Driving around Boise, it was amazing to see there was Boise State University (merchandise) and flags and apparel everywhere,” Jobe said. “They saw their identity in their university and that seemed to just transcend everything else.”

That’s just one part of the identity Boise touts to attract new businesses and residents.

However, Jobe said a city also must market to its natives. He suggests Springfield identify specifics the community can rally around – unique markers that make them proud. Boise residents, for instance, embrace BSU’s trademark blue turf football field.

“It is something that the community can rally around. It’s something that sets them apart from all the other schools in the area, all the other cities in the area,” he said. “I think we ought to say, ‘Let’s do something bold.’ I don’t know what that is, but I think it’s worth our community coming together and saying, ‘What can we do?’”

Springfield Police Department Maj. Kirk Manlove said that’s a good question to ask – especially from his vantage point.

And there are challenges to address. Some Springfieldians surveyed by SBJ identified the city by homelessness, poverty and crime statistics – which, according to the 2017 Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Uniform Crime Report, amounts to 26,564 crimes categorized as Part 1 because of their severity and regularity. The largest number – 11,582 – was for property crimes, followed by 8,241 larceny thefts and 1,700 violent crimes.

According to Idaho State Police crime records, Boise Police Department – which covers a larger population than Springfield – reported 14,270 offenses in 2016. Boise has about 223,000 residents, and Springfield has roughly 167,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We look at crime stats every day. We like to watch what trends are occurring,” Manlove said. “With property crimes, there are a lot of things citizens can do.”

Some of these preventive measures to help reshape the criminal aspect of the city’s identity, Manlove said, are participating in neighborhood watch programs, doing block watches, reporting suspicious behavior and locking car doors.

“If we can get folks to stop leaving their cars unlocked with keys in them and running and get them to stop keeping valuables in plain view, it’d go a long way to reduce crime numbers,” Manlove said. “These things are really preventable.”

SPD also has an officer who specializes in crime prevention for businesses, offering safety evaluations.

Manlove said the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Queen City is support.

“I think we have a community that is very supportive of public safety,” he said. “Citizens are not afraid to call and make a report. They give us that info that can help us solve a crime.”

During this process of identifying Springfield, Morrow said there isn’t room for rose-colored glasses.

“Every community has problems, and it’s important to address those challenges and we should do that on our way to a big vision,” Morrow said. “Addressing our challenges is not a vision, but addressing challenges is something we do on our way to a vision.”


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