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Opinion: This feels like I’m in Springfield

Truth Be Told

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We often leave our cities to find adventure. But I’ve been finding more and more to be excited about in Springfield lately. It feels like our intangible cool factor is on the rise, and I have a refreshed excitement to live, work and play in the Ozarks. Do you feel it?

Earlier this month, I attended MidxMidwst in downtown Springfield. This was the first year for the arts and culture festival, and while the events spanned just a couple days, the impact is long lasting. Artists spent the weekend painting eight massive murals in the Robberson Avenue alley and the back of Missouri State University’s Efactory. Watching them work, I found myself thinking, and saying, “This doesn’t feel like I’m in Springfield.”

I heard others say the same thing about the mainstage performance of Strfkr that capped the first day of the festival. An indie rock band from Portland, Oregon, jammed out while a light show was projected on the vacant grain silos along Phelps Street.

It was one of many experiences this summer that have me doing a double take at our region. It’s looking pretty good these days.

Last month, I joined in on Latin dance night in the back room of La Habana Vieja, a cozy Cuban eatery on C-Street. A little piece of Miami in the Ozarks? I’m game.

A couple weeks ago, I enjoyed a drink with co-workers at rooftop bar Vantage. It’s a prime place to watch the sunset. And afterward, we caught a performance of “Something Rotten” at the Springfield Little Theatre, which had us in stitches.

My husband and I had date night at The Garrison. The speakeasy restaurant on the lower level of The Ozark Mill at Finley Farms was charming and unique. Walking through a century-old molasses drum to get to the host stand where you have to offer a password to get in? That’s just plain fun.

We took our dogs to Fellows Lake and the Ozark Greenways trails for walks. And we’re looking forward to taking advantage of the newly opened marina to rent kayaks, as we have for years at Lake Springfield.

This summer, I also toured new facilities that certainly make me feel like I’d traveled out of the area. In southwest Springfield and Republic, the Convoy of Hope and Amazon facilities span well over a million square feet, both with distribution as the focus.

And on the campus of Ozarks Technical Community College, the Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing positions the region as an engine for workforce development.

Whether for work or play, I kept hearing myself say, “This doesn’t feel like I’m in Springfield.”

But I want to flip the script from being surprised to being proud. Look at us go and grow.

At Springfield Business Journal’s recent Economic Growth Series event on Tourism & Placemaking, I heard that sentiment, too. Tracy Kimberlin, president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau said, “We’re a world-class destination and we need to start thinking of ourselves as that.”

From the national draws like Bass Pro Shops and Wonders of Wildlife to the hidden gems sprinkled in neighborhoods and tucked away in nature, our region has much to offer visitors and residents. I love traveling to find adventure, but I’m learning to appreciate more what can be found right here as more investments and innovation enhance our community.

Buzzwords like placemaking and quality of place are often used as our city is nearing the adoption of a 20-year comprehensive plan. Defining these terms will vary from person to person, but to me it boils down to creating spaces and places that invoke city pride and excitement. It’s the things you tell your family and friends about and the photos you choose to share online.

Here’s to discovering and rediscovering our region and to what’s next.

Springfield Business Journal Executive Editor Christine Temple can be reached at ctemple@sbj.net.

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