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Jim Anderson, right, is moderator for a panel including, from left, Hal Higdon, Ann Marie Baker and Tim Rosenbury, to garner feedback after keynote speaker J. Mac Holladay's presentation.
Jim Anderson, right, is moderator for a panel including, from left, Hal Higdon, Ann Marie Baker and Tim Rosenbury, to garner feedback after keynote speaker J. Mac Holladay's presentation.

Next steps to economic development identified

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When Atlanta-based Market Street Services’ CEO J. Mac Holladay presented at the 2009 Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Conference, he compared southwest
Missouri’s economic development against other cities.

Holladay was back a year later, and this time, he laid out a strategy.

“One really important thing from our perspective is for everyone to know that this is your strategy,” Holladay told roughly 200 attendees during the Oct. 28 conference at Doubletree Hotel. “The community developed it. You all made the choices.”

The big four
The Strategic Action Plan presented last week by Holladay was developed using research, including Market Street’s competitive assessment and an evaluation of target industries and community input. It highlighted four goals: talent development, economic growth, community enhancement and challenging current perceptions. Each goal comes with its own set of objectives, yet Holladay said all were tied to each other.

“Growing our economy is only one goal, it’s not all four,” Holladay said. “You need the other three – they’re inter-related. If you don’t do them all, they’re going to fail. That’s one of the important parts of doing a strategy like this.”

To develop talent, Holladay noted the importance of championing the area’s kindergarten through 12th grade education system, ensuring that higher education is well funded and improving talent attraction and retention.

Economic growth requires attention to existing business, providing seed money and bridge capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs, marketing efforts, and the continued promotion of innovation through ventures such as IDEA Commons, which brings together innovation, design, entrepreneurship and the arts in center city.

“You’ve got to understand that there are a lot of Springfields, and how do you differentiate yourself and what do people think about you?” he said.

Community enhancement involves continued planning and development of infrastructure, and improvements to quality of life.

“Remembering that quality of life is a choice, we have as many of them as we can, in housing opportunities, in recreation, in taking advantage of the natural surroundings and that the arts and culture are growing and healthy,” Holladay said.

Additionally, he noted the importance of continued work on downtown Springfield, pointing to Price Cutter’s Bistro Market as a sign of progress.

Challenging perceptions is, Holladay noted, a hurdle. The goal is to change the outside view of the area, as well as what Springfield thinks of itself, he added.

“Be bold about what kind of place this is,” he said. “Talk about it, and think about it. Use all of your skills to really get there.”

Diversity has to be part of the fabric of Springfield, he said, stressing the importance of people feeling welcome and accepted. Holladay pointed to recent community discussions about diversity and a cycle of poverty as examples of practices that should continue.

Teamwork required
For the Market Street strategy to be successful, it cannot only be championed by one agency, Holladay warned. Buy-in has to happen on all levels, and one of the first goals is to get public and private organizations on board.

“That’s going to be one of our challenges – communicating to other groups, whether those are organizations or businesses, how some of these elements fit in, and how they can support economic development by implementing them,” said Ryan Mooney, senior vice president of economic development for the chamber.

After Holladay’s presentation, chamber president Jim Anderson moderated a community panel made up of Ozarks Technical Community College President Hal Higdon; UMB Bank southwest Missouri President Ann Marie Baker; Mayor Jim O’Neal; Morelock-Ross Builders Inc. Director of Operations David Ross; and Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. principal Tim Rosenbury.

Asked by Anderson for individual takeaways, each panel member pointed to the need for joint participation.

“There has to be an idea in this plan that you can make your own,” Baker said. “Make it your own, and make your company better for it.”

Part of Market Street’s strategy included a one-year action timeline that addresses elements from the plan that can be best accomplished first and within a year, Mooney said. Within the 113-page document, each of the four goals has 10 to 20 pages of steps recommended for the first year, Mooney said.

Not all of those steps will be taken by the chamber or its economic development arm, the Small Business Development Corp., stressed Holladay, reiterating the need for the entire community to cooperate. Those next steps and the benchmarks to judge their successes are expected to be outlined to the public in the next couple of months, he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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