Springfield City Council members were briefed for the first time by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Growth and Development Advisory Council.
Two representatives of the chamber body were present by invitation of the city to explain the group’s purpose and practices to council at its Tuesday luncheon meeting.
It’s a volunteer group comprised of Springfield businesspeople that one councilmember, Craig Hosmer, has had under the microscope since he first learned about it in spring 2022, when its advice was instrumental in council’s decision to adopt an amended version of the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code for construction practices in the city.
Hosmer said he has been on council for 10 years, but before the energy code discussion, he was unfamiliar with the chamber’s Growth and Development Advisory Council – previously referred to as the DIG Committee, for Developer Issues Advisory Group, according to the current council chair, John Griesemer, CEO of the Erlen Group and Springfield Underground.
Since learning of the group, Hosmer has made frequent inquiries about it at council meetings and has asked city staff if they have received advice from its members. On several occasions, he has asked for the chamber advisory council’s agendas prior to meetings, but he said at yesterday’s meeting that he had not yet received one.
Griesemer countered by raising a question about Hosmer’s interest.
“Do you get an agenda for every single meeting that every staff member has? It just seems odd to me,” he said. “If you want that, God bless you for doing the work you’re doing, but I think you’re talking about a huge amount of agendas.”
Hosmer said that if he asks for an agenda, he does expect to receive it.
“I asked for one. I just asked for this,” Hosmer said.
“It just seems like you’re asking for a lot,” Griesemer countered.
“Apparently I am, because I’ve never gotten it,” Hosmer said.
Griesemer explained some of the topics taken up by the group, like the energy code in 2022, or the size of sewer pipes, an issue discussed at the most recent meeting. A change is coming in code on sewer lines, and engineers were able to point out possible future negative impacts on sewer replacement, he said.
The groups stated purpose on the chamber website is “to ensure representative voices from the private sector development community are regularly meeting with top leadership from regulatory entities in order to create an exceptional reputation for developing and building in our community.”
Hosmer contended that neighborhoods and other groups should have just as much input with city staff as developers and businesses do.
Chamber President and CEO Matt Morrow noted that one of City Council’s priorities is economic vitality, and that is also the goal of the chamber and its Growth and Development Advisory Council, he said. He explained the advisory council exists to make sure partners in economic vitality efforts work together to attract private investment.
“Springfield is a big and vibrant and growing region, and that’s how we look at it from a chamber of commerce perspective,” he said. “Projects that come to the region are wins for us, whether those are projects that happen in Springfield and Republic or Branson or wherever through the area. But I also know that any strong region has a beating heart, and Springfield is the beating heart of this region.”
Councilmember Brandon Jenson asked if the Growth and Development Advisory Council provides training to newer developers and real estate investors.
“The reason I ask is because I’ve seen several developers make choices that would have a higher risk than I would normally consider being a prudent choice, like speculatively purchasing at higher values than the entitlements that are currently afforded to those properties,” he said.
Morrow agreed that has been a bit of a challenge at times and thanked Jenson for the suggestion.
Griesemer, though, pointed out how that kind of training could be somewhat problematic. “You want me to train my competitors?” he asked.
While training is not offered, the body is at work compiling a manual of best practices for dealing with the city.
Councilmember Matthew Simpson asked Griesemer and Morrow whether it is time to start looking at building a new industrial park. Morrow said work being done on LeCompte Road, near Springfield Underground, is a huge step forward in helping to tee up privately owned industrial development sites.
Morrow said the two Partnership Industrial Centers, east and west, have sites available that run up to 50 acres.
“The requests that we get are larger than that now,” Morrow said.
Griesemer said the PIC parks are “almost competitors” to him, but he said it is a great question to be asking.
“It’s important to get a sense of, what is the market that the private sector is and needs to operate in, and what is that space that doesn’t make sense for them to operate in, if there is such a space that the public sector can come along as partners to help tease some of these things up, that would help the community in a big way,” he said.
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