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Vice President of Public Affairs Sandy Howard, Public Affairs Project Manager Emily Denniston, Economic Development Coordinator Hollie Elliott and Business Develoment Manager Rob Dixon
Vice President of Public Affairs Sandy Howard, Public Affairs Project Manager Emily Denniston, Economic Development Coordinator Hollie Elliott and Business Develoment Manager Rob Dixon

Business Advocate of the Year: Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce

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Since 1919, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce has gone to bat for local economic development, bringing to the table programs and services that improve the business climate in the Ozarks.

Today, the chamber represents a network of more than 2,000 members, promoting their interests primarily through legislative advocacy and business development.

During the last several years, with help from its Springfield Business Development Corp., the chamber has been able to foster job growth by working with companies that see opportunities for expansion.

Chamber President Jim Anderson has seen companies such as Expedia, T-Mobile and Gold Mountain Communications create jobs during difficult economic times with the help of chamber resources.

“I think this economic downturn has challenged us more than ever, as it should, on supporting existing businesses,” Anderson says. “It’s easy to focus on the new jobs and new business. You can forget sometimes how important it is to take care of what is already there.”

Anderson says the SBDC worked closely with Roma of Springfield, a subsidiary of Performance Food Group, to enable a 35,000-square-foot addition to its west Springfield facility, growth that will result in a $5.2 million capital investment and create roughly 50 jobs in the next five years. SBDC assisted the company’s efforts to secure more than $800,000 in state tax incentives from the Missouri Department of Economic Development through the creation of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone.

The chamber also has worked with Chase Card Services, which has 1,300 local employees and plans to grow. Chase held a career open house June 7 as part of its plan to hire 450 employees in the second half of 2011.

The chamber’s economic development team helped Digital Monitoring Products identify and secure available tax incentives, and the company’s $1.5 million, 35,000-square-foot expansion is funded through industrial revenue bonds secured through SBDC.

Those and other chamber efforts may explain why Springfield was, for the fourth year in a row, ranked in the Top 50 Best Places for Business and Careers by Forbes Magazine.

On the advocacy front, the chamber has used its relationships with local, state and federal lawmakers to push for laws that support a positive business environment that will bring new businesses and growth to southwest Missouri, says Sandy Howard, the chamber’s vice president of public affairs.

This year, the chamber supported law changes known as the “fix the six” initiative, backed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business groups.

Howard says the Springfield chamber lobbied for the measures that many business owners statewide felt were barriers to job growth. She points to the elimination of the corporate franchise tax by 2016 as an example of the impact of chamber advocacy efforts.

“We’ll continue to work with local, state and federal legislators to establish the right framework for business growth in our area,” she says.

Chamber leadership visits to other communities during the last 18 years also have brought benefits to the local business community, Howard says. After a visit by chamber members to Lexington, Ky., for example, a community grade card was established locally to identify the positive and negative features of the area business climate. As a result, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks launched its Grantmakers Challenge, which has raised roughly $22 million in the last five years for nonprofits that support children.

From the 2011 Economic Impact Awards publication
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