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Community Focus Report sheds light on local workforce issues

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The biennial Community Focus Report that shines a spotlight on Springfield’s strengths and weaknesses was released this morning.

Stakeholders gathered at the Springfield Art Museum for a presentation led by Drury University’s Jonathan Groves, facilitator of the Community Focus Report, and community volunteer Morey Mechlin, chair of its steering committee. Topics in the report range from education and housing to recreation, public safety and the natural environment, with “blue ribbons” and “red flags” marking things the city is doing well and areas for improvement, respectively.

Under the topic of business and economic development, the Community Focus Report identifies the red-flag issues of a skilled worker shortage, slowing population growth and lack of development-ready sites.

“While there are several issues on the horizon that need to be addressed — including the workforce shortage, the need for skills training and the need to boost wages through high-skills jobs — our region's ability to collaborate and address these issues together gives me confidence in our ability to maintain our economic vitality for years to come,” said Robin Robeson, chief operating officer for Guaranty Bank and board chair-elect for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, in the report.

While a low unemployment rate in the area was among blue-ribbon areas, officials say it’s contributing to the lack of skilled workers to fill newly created jobs.

Further, the report states low wages — median household income is lower in Springfield than Greene County as a whole, the United States and other areas examined — and a slowing population are contributing to workforce issues.

“Overall, the lack of available skilled workers makes it more difficult to encourage new businesses to locate in our area and existing businesses to expand here,” the report states.

Blue-ribbon areas included economic strength, a startup-friendly environment and education.

"The Springfield region's economy has continued to thrive for several years, thanks to several factors: a strong educational base, strength in key cornerstone economic sectors like health care, and a vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship,” Robeson said in the report.

Designed to assess and bring attention to issues in the city and county, the report is a partnership between Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Junior League of Springfield, the chamber, the Springfield Greene-County Library District and United Way of the Ozarks. It was first published in 2004.

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