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Significant population growth south of Springfield has many eyes looking toward strategic economic development efforts as a way to capture business along the Highway 65 corridor between Springfield and Branson.
The Highway 65 corridor is well-positioned to become an economic development hotspot for the region, says Jeremy Burcham, president and CEO of Springfield-based Meridian Title Co.
According to Springfield Business Journal’s 2021 Economic Growth Survey, well over 50% of respondents concur with Burcham, expecting to see continued expansion and merging of the communities along the Highway 65 corridor south of Springfield.
With this rapid growth comes infrastructure challenges, says Andrea Sitzes, president and CEO of Show Me Christian County.
“With the cost of infrastructure, we are looking for creative solutions,” she says.
Much of the land between Springfield and Branson is, as of yet, not ready for building. The land is available, but it takes public-private partnerships, a collaboration between cities and county economic developers, along with legislative support in helping to get transportation tax improvement initiatives in place to aid the efforts.
Burcham envisions a future Highway 65 between Springfield and Branson where thriving development and the area’s trademark landscape coexist bridging the two community’s economies. He sees this as an opportunity for community leaders, investors and entrepreneurs to come together and strategically plan what type of businesses they’d like to see along the corridor and then work toward making it a reality. He’d like to create an experience for travelers, making it part of their destination between Springfield and Branson.
Burcham compares the potential of the corridor to the Chesterfield Valley corridor near St. Louis, where recent growth has rendered a high-end outlet mall, a huge athletic complex drawing in thousands for tournaments, trendy stores and restaurants, and hotels.
This is strategic growth, he says. He suggests making fun and entertaining venues easier to access for those who are headed to a fun destination. In Chesterfield’s case, that’s downtown St. Louis. By comparison, locally, Branson is that destination.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to take the traffic and the volume of people that flow through there every day and do something,” he says.
Sitzes says she works with business owners to help them find ways to be successful.
“We don’t take the cookie-cutter approach,” she says.
Often, part of that is connecting them to a collaborative partner that may not even be in the same business lane, but their businesses create a synergy. Sitzes and her team work to cultivate the opportunities coming to the area while supporting existing businesses and helping them to take advantage of opportunities and resources as they emerge.
Sitzes says recent economic development efforts, due in part to population growth, have focused on meeting the needs of our current businesses and residents, a more reactive than proactive approach. But as this growth stabilizes, officials are looking to implement a more proactive strategy which includes exploring ideas like Burcham has for economic development growth along the corridor.
The key lies in local collaboration and teamwork among business leaders and investors in the area. According to the SBJ’s Economic Growth Survey, 60.5% of respondents ranked attracting new customers for their businesses in the Top 5 most important issues for business over the next five years and 31.4% said they’d like to attract more business to the Springfield region. Burcham says building up the 65 corridor would help accomplish both those things.
“My goal is to help stimulate strategic economic growth that will benefit the entire 417 community long-term,” he says.
This content is brought to you by Meridian Title Co.
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