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The value of investing in the future

Posted by Jeremy Elwood on Aug 30, 2017

A central theme emerged at the 2017 Economic Outlook event on August 23: our region’s economy is strong, but maintaining that strength will require investment in our future.

Hosted by the Springfield Business Development Corporation (the Chamber’s economic development arm), the second in this year’s new Outlook series brought together more than 300 SBDC investors, community leaders and members of the public for a look at the state of the local, regional and national economy.

Note: Want to see highlights from the event? Check out the video below!

The view from inside the region

Manager of Business Development Justin Coyan discussed our economic development successes so far in 2017. Highlights include nine announced projects that will create more than 1,000 new jobs, $35.7 million in new payroll and more than $70 million in capital investment for the Springfield region

Coyan focused on two recent stories showcasing the importance of attracting new companies and helping create the environment where existing businesses can expand:

  • One Call Care Management, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, announced earlier this summer that it’s expanding its operations to open a facility in Springfield
  • Louis-based IT firm Asynchrony Labs has expanded its Springfield presence from a single employee working remotely for the company to a downtown office building that is on its way to employing 50.

Our region won both projects because move-in ready buildings were available and suited the needs of those two companies – but that kind of real estate is at a premium in the market, as is the workforce needed to meet the demands of growth.

“We must continue to invest in our workforce, continue bringing additional real estate options to market and continue to support the growth and expansion of our current businesses if our community is to continue realizing these successes,” Coyan said.

The experts’ perspective

The event’s two keynote speakers, both Federal Reserve Bank economists, offered a more macroeconomic view. Charles Gascon of the St. Louis Fed gave a regional perspective, noting that the economy in Springfield’s metro area remains strong. Our area boasts historically low unemployment rates and is maintaining modest but steady population growth without seeing increases in cost of living.

Gascon noted that while those low unemployment rates will help grow wages, they could also mean slow job growth, since there are fewer people available to fill the newly created jobs. He said the best way to help foster continued growth is to invest in the resources for which the Chamber has long been an advocate: infrastructure and human capital, i.e., education.

“Increased output can come from either attracting workers or increasing productivity,” he said.

Following Gascon, Craig Hakkio of the Kansas City Fed provided a look at the national economy and offered a cautiously optimistic view of the future. Real GDP growth is expected to slowly increase over the next 18 months, while inflation has recently moderated and monetary policy is returning to more historically normal levels, he said.

But Hakkio also pointed to the labor market as a potential sticking point. He said the country is at, or even beyond, “full employment,” meaning the number of new jobs created each month is outpacing the number of unemployed workers to fill them.

He also indicated that high-skills jobs have accounted for the majority of net employment growth over the last five years, meaning the need for specialized workforce training continues to increase – mirroring what many Chamber members tell us.

Through three different speakers, the Economic Outlook event delivered the message that we must make a collective investment in infrastructure, real estate and workforce to sustain the positive economic environment we all enjoy in the Springfield region.

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