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When it comes to helping businesses grow or attracting new businesses to the Springfield area, money is only one piece of the puzzle.
To help businesses pull all of the pieces together, Arvest Bank recently hired two economic development specialists within three months of each other. The move represents a shift in the skill set typically sought for commercial lenders, but Arvest Springfield President Kyle Hubbard said it’s a strategy that makes sense for
“With the current competitive labor market, employers everywhere are looking for innovative ways to build the workforce they need,” Hubbard said via email, noting one of the bank’s core values is driving change. “We looked at commercial banking and wanted to take an innovative and unique approach in order to be the bank of choice for this market.
“We believe bringing in economic developers to our team is one way we can be unique and provide a different set of solutions and value to our customers.”
To that end, two local veterans of economic development recently joined the Arvest team: Andrea Sitzes in November 2021 and Ryan Mooney in February.
Both say they never expected such a career shift, but they each acknowledge it’s a lane change that seems logical for them personally and one that will deepen the bank’s relationships with clients.
Sitzes was deeply invested in her role as president and CEO of Show Me Christian County when Arvest came calling.
“I wasn’t looking for another job,” she said. “I loved my job at Show Me
In her role there, she helped attract Creative Audio and Alpine Aviation to settle in Christian County.
But she said Jason England, an executive vice president and loan manager for Arvest’s Springfield-Branson market, painted a vibrant picture of what he envisioned.
“He was very visionary with the type of team he was trying to build,” Sitzes said. “He said, ‘You have the skill set that we’re looking for. I want you to still have that lens of economic development but viewed through the lens of commercial banking.’”
Sitzes said she thought about it a long time, talked it over with her husband and eventually came to the realization: “I could still do the work I was doing for Christian County, but maybe in a little bit different way.”
After a two-month transition that began in November, Sitzes now serves as market executive and vice president in commercial lending for Ozark, Nixa and Republic. Two other new hires – Jeff Jochems, a former administrative executive for Ozarks Technical Community College, and Devin Bobbet, a nearly 30-year banker, are also on the team focused on business in Christian County.
In February, Sitzes was joined by Mooney, who served in a variety of positions at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce over 22 years, most recently as senior vice president of economic development.
Over that time, he had a role in some high-profile wins for the Springfield metro area.
“Some obvious economic developments that go to the top of the highlight reel: Project manager that landed the T-Mobile facility; Expedia was a whole story in itself – 700 and 500 jobs, respectively. A number of manufacturing projects, 3M’s expansion, Kraft’s continued reinvestment in Springfield,” Mooney recalled.
But he said some of the big wins were far less concrete. He said the chamber was instrumental in helping to transform “the way we think about economic and workforce development and the idea of placemaking: If we make Springfield a great place to live and work, we will attract more talent.”
Mooney said he left the chamber in November last year to explore other career options but hadn’t considered banking until Arvest approached him.
“A year ago, I hadn’t really thought doing economic development in the private sector was an option,” he said. “But when Arvest came to me with this new way of approaching commercial banking, it seemed like a good fit and an exciting opportunity.”
As he talked with bank executives and Sitzes, he too saw the vision.
Mooney joined Arvest on Feb. 1 and serves as vice president of economic development for the Springfield metropolitan area.
“Its openness to a new approach to commercial banking was a good match for my skills, and they painted a good picture for my career,” Mooney said.
Additionally, hiring specialists “will allow Arvest to partner with companies to solve problems they have before they need a financial solution,” Mooney said.
England, who’s worked over 20 years for Arvest and moved from the Bentonville, Arkansas, market to join the local team in April 2021, said via email that the bank’s reasons for pursuing Sitzes and Mooney were simple: “Andrea and Ryan stood out as leaders in economic development and had skills we knew would translate very well to commercial banking.”
The wider view
Sitzes said she’s excited about putting the skills she’s acquired over the years to work for Arvest’s commercial customers.
As a certified economic development finance professional through the National Development Council and a graduate of Oklahoma University’s Economic Development Institute, she said she’s prepared to help businesses fine-tune their vision and get them ready for growth.
Her biggest question for them: “What do you want to accomplish with your business, and how can I help you do that?”
She said there’s not a magic formula that applies to all: “We have to allow room for flexibility and creative approaches as no one is alike, other than all businesses want to be wanted, whether they have two or 2,000 employees.”
Mooney, who has an economic and community developer certification through the International Economic Development Council, said he’s excited about getting to work with companies “to really understand the company – what drives them and what trips them up and help them capitalize. I can help remove some of those barriers that might trip them up, like inadequate infrastructure, regulatory challenges, helping them identify incentive programs or other programs that might help their project become profitable more quickly.
“It’s not just about bringing a financial solution, but to helping the whole project,” he said of his job responsibilities.
The end goal, he said, is for the economic-development approach to help the bank’s clients solve these problems and build their trust in Arvest as a partner, rather than just a vendor.
Sitzes said she’s ready to “make deals happen and grow our region.”
“This is a great opportunity, and it’s one that I never dreamed for myself. They found that potential in me, and that is something I will forever be grateful for. I didn’t plan this for me – this is a God thing, and I’m just really excited to see what our whole team does.”
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