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The Chamber is focused on improving the business climate at all levels of government. Much of this work is done for our members and the business community behind the scenes, but sometimes all the pieces come together and demonstrate the way local government can work when operating at its best.
The November 14 City Council meeting serves as a case study for how the influence of the business community can work in tandem with strong elected leaders taking important economic development steps to move our community forward.
One of the Chamber’s efforts was forming the Voice of Business Committee in 2010. This group of business leaders attends City Council meetings, monitors business issues and weighs in when appropriate. They have weighed in on countless business issues over the years, ensuring the business perspective is a constant part of Council discussions.
Several initiatives were up for review at the November 14 meeting that impact economic development. One was an ordinance that would allow Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate in Springfield. Council unanimously passed that measure, but it did not occur without hard work and strong leadership behind the scenes.
Members of City Council, led by Mayor Pro Tem Ken McClure, worked closely with City staff, the Chamber and other stakeholders to develop an ordinance that would be fair to our existing transportation network, while allowing ridesharing companies to begin operating in Springfield. This led to a bill that garnered a tremendous amount of support from the business community. Springfield citizens, members of The Network for Young Professionals and members of the Voice of Business Committee all urged council to pass the bill and take an important step to ensure a vibrant and thriving community.
At the same meeting, Council also heard first reading on bills concerning incentives for a planned Springfield expansion by 3M Company. (Springfield 3M Manager Frederick James, pictured above, represented the company at the meeting. James also serves on the Chamber's Board of Directors.) Springfield is competing with other 3M locations for this particular expansion and the proposed incentives are a determining factor. This expansion would be a $40 million investment and create 92 new high-quality jobs with more than $5 million in payroll.
The Chamber has worked with our economic development partners for many years to secure this expansion. Members of the Chamber’s Voice of Business Community showed strong support for the 3M expansion, articulating the importance of investing in manufacturing and supporting local employers. Council sent a message that Springfield is open for business, having since passed all three measures related to the expansion, keeping Springfield in the running to secure these jobs and investment.
Also at that same meeting was a review proposed sewer rate increases to provide funding to comply with the Clean Water Act and Missouri Department of Natural Resources mandates. While no one wants to see increases, the Chamber has facilitated conversations between City staff and members of the manufacturing community who would be considered heavy users and heavily impacted by rate increases. By the time council heard the bill, the region’s largest manufacturers were already aware of the proposed increases and had a chance to assess the impact and provide feedback to City staff.
This pro-business environment on City Council is no accident. The Springfield Good Government Committee, a partnership between the Chamber and the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield, works to recruit, endorse and support candidates who have a thoughtful and well-reasoned approach to local governance. These efforts makes a difference. Numerous members have been endorsed by Springfield Good Government Committee and clearly outlined their desire to create a culture and environment that encourages job creation, investment in the region and economic development as fundamental to the role of City government.
When local government functions at its highest levels, with private citizens and business leaders weighing in on issues that matter to them, elected officials listen and make decisions that help our community move forward. The Chamber will continue to work to connect all of these elements for the betterment of the Springfield region.