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Opinion: Scrapped plans are the perfect opportunity

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Stanford economist Paul Romer famously said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” While this phrase seems to be as common as “unprecedented” and “pivot,” it does provide some wisdom. As we wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, economic slowdown and issues of systemic inequality, it is clear that a lot of things are broken. But they don’t have to stay that way. The new normal can look any way we want it to.

Many startups and small businesses have found their business plans and financial projections wadded up and thrown in the trash in response to COVID-19. Everything has changed. As frustrating as it may be, scrapped plans also make way for new ideas, innovations and opportunities.

It’s with this adjusted mindset that I challenge you to approach the hardships we’re all facing together. Once you’ve tossed your perfectly crafted plan in the trash, take a step back and reevaluate what comes next.

Scrapped plans are the perfect opportunity to create something completely new. Now is a great time to identify gaps in the market. It’s a chance to adapt and adopt new approaches that may not have been in the forecast before.

Data show us that when unemployment increases, the rate of entrepreneurship rises. Some of the world’s most successful companies were launched during a recession and quickly surpassed their competition. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Trader Joe’s are just a few companies that got their starts during previous recessions. Others pivoted or started in the midst of economic chaos because necessity really is the mother of all invention.

Startups matter, and not only to their founders. Research from MOSourceLink shows that startups and small businesses create nearly 80% of all new jobs in Missouri annually. These businesses foster major economic impact while also being an important part of what makes communities special.

Springfield has a rich history of entrepreneurship. At the Efactory, we truly believe our city’s best days are ahead of us. Thinking about the future has always excited us. We’re looking forward to supporting our community’s next wave of entrepreneurs, innovators and visionaries.

Make no mistake, we have a lot of work ahead. But it’s important that the size and scope of these problems (and opportunities) doesn’t prevent us from starting. The goal is not to be perfect tomorrow. The goal is to be better every day.

Everyone has seen the headlines about remote work, urban exodus and the opportunities presented to workers in a post-COVID world. Newly remote workers from across the country will have the opportunity to live and work from anywhere. We truly believe Springfield is positioned to become the city of choice for entrepreneurs, innovators and trailblazers. Why couldn’t it be here? We’ve got all the right ingredients and plenty of exciting things on the horizon.

Not long ago, IDEA Commons and a downtown innovation district was only a dream. Today it’s a reality and stands as an example of what is possible through successful public-private partnerships. The district continues to grow, with expansion of the Efactory and MSU’s cooperative engineering program nearly complete. Expansion also is underway on the Jordan Valley Innovation Center, a hub for high-tech research and development. Daylighting Jordan Creek isn’t just an idea – it’s slated to become a reality. Forward SGF and our community’s new strategic plan will create a blueprint focused on people, place and prosperity.

There’s a line that seems apt for the situation we find ourselves in right now: “Opportunities are rarely offered; they are seized.” We’re committed to seizing every opportunity. And we’re committed to helping the rest of our community do the same.

As the world continues to change, we will be here to help businesses respond, innovate and imagine “what if.” After all, in Springfield community is who we are. Forward is where we’re going. We hope you’ll join us.

Rachel Anderson is the director of Efactory at Missouri State University. She can be reached at rachelanderson@missouristate.edu.

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