Maurice Jones is the second in command at the city of Springfield. He joined the city in early 2019 and shares the role with Collin Quigley. Jones oversees seven departments.
SBJ: How can the city best help the private sector rebound in 2021?
Jones: The outlook remains uncertain. The COVID-19 vaccine can offer hope and a turnaround in 2021, but the next few months could be challenging. We want to try to be proactive to see how we can work with businesses to see what their needs are and how to create the environment for success. That’s one of the things we need to navigate through in a post-pandemic economy to see what that is going to look like and how we can play a role there. It’s going to be in communication. We’re hoping what’s going to happen is we’ll accelerate in the second half of the year. That’s probably going to happen from a national economy perspective.
SBJ: What economic development is in the works for next year?
Jones: We want to make sure we have a capable, competent workforce. But there’s also going to be other pressures – that’s going to be from the housing perspective. There will be some opportunities there. I’m looking at all market points. Interest rates are pretty low, so the opportunities to get into a home, we hope, remain pretty reasonable. But then we have opportunities in some of our neighborhoods to go in and do rehabilitation, maybe vacant and abandoned properties, to begin to put those back on the market so everybody has an opportunity at an entry point to get in a home. When we talk about expanding businesses, they’re going to look for a place for their employees to live.
SBJ: What projects or initiatives do you consider the biggest to watch and plan for?
Jones: Grant Avenue Parkway. That is a major project that will have a huge impact on our community, connecting downtown to Bass Pro. It’s going to be more than a linear park. That’s going to be a community driver, creating a sense of place. It shows how government and private sector can work together to drive future development. When you have this type of investment in a corridor like that, you begin to have ancillary economic drivers begin to pop up around it. It also increases your housing stock and job creation. That’s what you’re going to see here. You won’t see it in the next year, but work is ongoing. The project is two to three years out for construction.
SBJ: Where will the Forward SGF comprehensive plan be a year from now?
Jones: COVID has slowed that process down. The strength of the document is with community input. That has become more challenging to incorporate. I anticipate it should be coming online soon. It’s not a static document, so as the community changes, it will have the flexibility to change as well. It begins to identify where you have opportunity for sustainable growth, to make your community a place you want to live and play. What is it going to take, financially, as a community?
SBJ: How surprised are you that city sales tax collections did not decline this year, at least through November, and in fact, it beat budgeted projections made before the pandemic? What does that mean for next year?
Jones: Everyone is very surprised by that. Nationally, you have a worst-case scenario. You prepare for the worst but hope for the best. We were very fortunate. A combination of things occurred there. There was an economic shift, people’s priorities had to change. You look at the national government stimulus that was injected into the equation as well. We have a very tightknit community; we do a lot of shopping local.
Mercy Springfield Communities is replacing its Mercy Clinic Family Medicine – South Creek building, located at 2711 S. Meadowbrook Ave., with a new building that is 1,500 square feet larger.