Springfield City Councilman and Manager of Regional Development, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
2015 Economic Outlook: Jeff Seifried
Jeff Seifried has the community’s pulse on economic development straddling key posts with the city and chamber of commerce. 2015 Projection The Springfield chamber will exceed last year’s 10 project announcements. SBJ: In terms of economic development, 2014 seemed to be an active year. How is 2015 shaping up? Jeff Seifried: Our chamber members are very optimistic about 2015. I think 2014 surprised them as far as the level of success and rebound in the economy. The indicator that everyone knows well is the unemployment rate. We often consider below 5 percent to be near full employment. We’re seeing 4 percent – 3.9 percent unemployment – so I think with that and hearing from members they had a fairly good ’14, expectations are for an even better year.
SBJ: Last year, the chamber assisted in 10 project announcements with 168 jobs created and $108 million in capital investments. Do you think 2015 will exceed those numbers? Seifried: That is always the goal. The opportunity is our growing economy. The threat is available buildings and available land. If you look across the area – whether it is distribution sites or warehouse sites – there are still some sites available but not in mass quantities. … I know two developers have committed to building. Tom Rankin was one of those. His building should be complete now – a 65,000-square-foot building. And Warren Davis Properties has committed to building two 125,000-square-foot facilities. I have to be careful with what I say because we are working a project right now with a company that wants 100,000 square feet. At this moment, our options are limited. And it’s competitive with at least two other states.
SBJ: At council, issues surrounding blight and tax abatements for developers have taken center stage. Does the upside of the incentives outweigh the scrutiny? Seifried: Every day, we are competing for investment dollars.
We are competing around the state. We are competing around the country. It’s important that we use the tools available to us though state law to remediate blight. I think the case study here is downtown. That’s been a very successful effort … between the city investing in infrastructure, roads and utilities to make downtown – at least the public spaces on the square – beautiful. Those have ultimately attracted private investment and the risk-takers to downtown, which has made it more successful that it’s been in 20 years.
SBJ: New chamber President and CEO Matt Morrow has observed a mismatched workforce as the skill sets of employees returning to work after the extended downturn do not match the available jobs. Are workforce challenges top of mind for members? Seifried: For many, it’s priority No. 1. Having a good pool of workers to choose from makes a difference for many when it comes to being successful and sustainable.[[In-content Ad]]