2010 Community Leadership Visit - Springfield, Mo.
Leadership Visit Reveals the 'Best Kept Secrets' of Springfield
A group of 72 Springfield area business, education and government leaders participated in the Chamber’s 17th annual community leadership visit September 16 -17, 2010.
Instead of traveling to another community to learn from their "best practices", for the first time, the annual program remained at home to see what could be learned from an intense and introspective study of Springfield. The visit gave participants a chance to learn about Springfield in new ways and challenge their own assumptions about this place we call “home.”
To begin, the group looked backward at key stages in Springfield’s economic growth and development which then allowed participants to look foward with consideration of how Springfield is positioned to compete in the emerging knowledge-based economy.
Participants were amazed to learn about the research taking place at the Roy Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center, including innovative medical devices being developed by the St. John’s Medical Research Institute.
The Taylor-Martin Group's entrepreneurial success story wowed the delegation as participants toured the Lofts at Inspired Commerce and learned about Bridge Blue Sourcing Partners, which supplies home furnishings for more than one-third of the nation’s top 50 retailers. Just one example of a Springfield success with a global impact.
Along with excitement over technolgical advances and global commerce happening in their own backyards, a session with Springfield area business leaders Louis Griesemer (Springfield Underground), Greg Henslee (O’Reilly Auto Parts), and Jack Stack (SRC Holdings Corporation) reminded the delegation about the importance of manufacturing as a staple industry in the community, both in the past and moving forward.
Later in the trip, the opportunities involved with nanotechnology, innovation and entrepreneurship gave way to a serious study of some of the most pressing challenges facing the community.
The delegation learned that almost half of the students in the Springfield Public Schools District are eligible for the free-and-reduced price lunch program and nearly 50 percent of the homeless members of our community are children.
These alarming statistics on poverty, along with a lack of cultural diversity in the community, create two major obstacles standing in the way of Springfield’s future economic success.
As the conversation veered toward solutions and remedies, however, a common theme emerged – the strong belief that education must be our foundation.
Participants concluded the two-day visit with a renewed appreciation for the collaboration that exists in the Springfield area and a desire to better communicate community successes. A complete report on the 2010 Community Leadership Visit will begin the process of telling those success stories and sparking the dialogue needed to move forward on the challenging goals of reducing poverty and improving inclusion.