Each year, the Springfield Business Development Corp. measures “leads.” That’s what we call potential job creation projects when working with companies searching for a new place to locate. In the past, we’ve averaged about 30 leads per year. Last year and this year, we are closer to the 50-lead range annually for the 10-county region.
The goal is to take these potential projects and make them actual projects. If we can make it to a company’s short list for a site visit, our chances of winning the project are much higher.
There are two significant factors in whether we get to this pivotal point in the highly competitive process to win projects.
The first is available workforce, which is certainly a challenging part of the equation across the country – and we are no exception. But the other increasingly critical component of transitioning from a lead to a project is having the right buildings and land development options available for industries associated with quality jobs. This is an area where we have the opportunity to create assets in the short term that will help us stay in the competition.
The current industrial building vacancy rate in Greene and Christian counties together is 3.2 percent. This is extremely low. We simply do not have enough of the type of real estate on the market that meets economic development criteria. The demand is evident.
As part of an effort to help solve this problem, Tom Rankin of SVN/Rankin Co. recently developed a speculative 100,000-square-foot industrial building. It was leased well before completion, with the tenant adding another 30,000 square feet to the construction. Another 200,000-square-foot space was developed on a speculative basis at Springfield Underground recently; it’s also already claimed.
We continually monitor office vacancy rates in the region, as well. That number for Greene and Christian counties combined also is very low at 4.6 percent. The leads we are working with have specific criteria that our current capacity simply does not meet. This is another reason why the IDEA Commons expansion project is vitally important. It will help meet many of those criteria, especially in the information technology industry.
The other aspect of making certain we have the industrial and commercial real estate assets we need is working with area city and county development processes to be certain they are effective and customer-focused. This ensures Springfield is viewed as a good investment for real estate construction.
Investment in infrastructure that supports building site readiness has a strong return. The city of Republic is an excellent example of this kind of intentional planning and focus. Their investment in sewer and transportation infrastructure positioned the community well to win a number of attraction and expansion projects due to site readiness.
In Springfield, there are opportunities to invest in infrastructure projects that check priority economic development criteria boxes. For example, making much-needed road improvements to allow for the development of the surface area above Springfield Underground – an area with rail service and immediate highway access – could be an excellent fit for Springfield’s quarter-cent capital improvements or eighth-cent transportation sales tax proposals.
A large industrial building or an open-floor-plan office is an incredible draw right now. If we can get a company to visit an available building or site here, our experience has been that it’s much more likely this region will win the project. If our region can advance more fully development-ready sites and buildings constructed on a speculative basis, the current demand by site selectors tells us they’ll be occupied. And it’ll spur more growth.
As the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and many other community partners work collaboratively to address growing and developing our workforce to compete for quality jobs, we also need investors, developers and public partners to focus on creating the high-demand real estate assets that will help us convert leads to projects and, ultimately, the announcement of quality jobs.
Ryan Mooney is senior vice president of economic development for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Local developer plans renovations after investing $5 million in foreclosed property acquisitions.
How do you develop your company's core values? Mark Struckhoff and Michele Delcoure, both with Council of Churches discuss how they did it and the importance of why you should. Ask the Experts is a monthly series in cooperation with Springfield Business Journal. This is sponsored content.
As employees are more mobile and have a desire to work from home, Haden Long owner of Ellecor, explains office spaces are trending towards a more home-like feel. Things like shared work spaces, office pets, and cozy furnishings allow employees to be selective about where they work and become more effective as a result.
Every industry has to navigate trend shifts, but Scott Shotts of Missouri Spirits describes the changes in beverage industry as anarchy. Tried-and-true spirits rules are being ignored. Learn how the local distillery balances following the trends for product development with taking risks.
Kevin Wyas, founder of ECRI, started his first business at the age of 19, ran the business for 16 years before selling it. He recognizes the benefits of starting a business so young when he had relatively little to lose. "The stress and the uncertainty of this would be crippling," he says for somebody accustomed to a regular paycheck.
ighty percent of questions are common across industries, so you don't need industry-specific experience to do effective market research according to Debra Kassarjian, independent consultant and owner of DKInsights. As a matter of fact, she thinks there is a great deal to be gained from exchanging ideas outside of your industry.
Danny Collins, 37 North founder and guide, says the biggest leap they took in the first year was to purchase a vehicle. That major financial investment, however, allowed them to provide their outdoor guide services at a price point they felt was more appropriate.
Springfield Diner owner Ömer Önder sits down with a restaurant consultant who starts challenging the menu offerings."No bashful food." The blunt conversation is the launching off point to determine how the Mediterranean influence will affect the young restaurant's offerings in the future. Made to Order is an ongoing sbjLive documentary series in collaboration with Springfield Business Journal tracking the rebranding of a local restaurant.
Haden Long, owner of Ellecor, opened a retail home decor business five years ago in a traditional retail space. When the interior design side of the business took off, she decided to renovate a 100-year old bungalow to better show off product samples and installations.
Scott Shotts, partner with Missouri Spirits, says when they started in 2011 there were approximately 300 distilleries in the U.S. and now there are more than 3,000 so competition has grown significantly. Diversification of their business model has helped them succeed.
Matthew Blystone of Theta Float Spa had the financial means to start the unique business, but used crowdsourcing for pre-orders to determine market interest in addition to gathering a nice cash reserve before opening.