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Bold Planning Builds Thriving Cities (Sponsored Content)

SBJ Economic Growth Survey: The Next Peak

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Being bold and confident are two traits that don’t just apply to individuals but can be a telling characteristic of a thriving city.

In 2017, Springfield delegates traveled to Boise, Idaho, as part of a Community Leadership Visit through the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. This peer city at one point had similar demographics as Springfield, including a population of around 140,000 in 1990, plus desirable natural landscapes, a university and corporate facilities. In the past 25 years, however, Boise’s population has grown to over 237,000, becoming a hip and thriving destination for young professionals.

Richard Ollis, a Springfield City Council member and CEO of Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance and Business Advisors, says part of Boise’s success was its boldness in city planning, particularly during a recession.

“When they came out of it, they had a bold vision and the leadership in place to spur that investment,” Ollis says.

Derick O’Neill, Boise’s planning and development services director in 2017, said in the post-trip report that the main focus was to distill a large comprehensive plan into items that would be “real for people,” including redefining downtown, energizing neighborhoods and connecting all parts of the community.

To achieve this, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said at the time the city leaders needed to “shoot high and build big things.” That also meant building trust with citizens, breaking down obstacles for entrepreneurs and following through on the idea stages of planning. Ollis agrees that city leaders should be on the same side of the table as entrepreneurs, rather than adversaries.

During the Aug. 3 Workforce and Economic Development Visioning Workshop, Ollis was excited to hear Republic City Manager David Cameron discuss how cities today need to work with the business community to grow and develop. Cutting through red tape and streamlining development processes helped Republic build a 1 million-square-foot Amazon warehouse in 14 months, versus the two-to-three years it would normally take, Ollis says.

He adds that the feedback from the Boise trip, plus learning from Cameron, are all similar points to what has been discussed in the Forward SGF comprehensive plan, particularly around economic development.

In the Forward SGF plan, Springfield Economic Vitality Director Amanda Ohlensehlen has noticed a parallel in what city stakeholders are seeking with what leaders in Boise had set in motion.

“The plan centers around the idea of quality of place,” Ohlensehlen says. “There has been such a robust and great community response in the efforts designing the plan, so it is informed on what the community wants to see in the next 20 years.”

Ollis notes that all stakeholders need to work together with an ongoing effort of education, transparency and communication.

“It can’t just be a plan we put on a shelf that we refer to occasionally when we have an altercation,” he says.

Implementation of Forward SGF is a top priority for the Economic Vitality Department, according to Ohlensehlen.

“We are the connector in the community to help improve attractiveness and quality of life to drive job growth, facilitate investment and infrastructure, and nurture the workforce,” she says, pointing to services to help small businesses and major economic development projects succeed and get through permits and approvals in a timely and efficient manner.

In Boise, Ollis recalls the level of collaboration between city leaders and developers: “The mayor said they ‘solve problems and provide customer service, versus being in the regulation business.’”

Ollis says it will take more than just leaders to be bold, though.

“We need, as a community, to decide whether we are going to redevelop, grow and modernize,” he says. “Or are we going to fight and make it difficult to grow and thrive?”

He worries that without community initiative or desire to grow, Springfield could shrink and lose potential incoming young professionals and stifle growth of existing businesses.

Citing a few development opportunities that are meeting vocal opposition, such as the Lone Pine Bike Park, apartments in Galloway Village and a 7 Brew Coffee Shop, Ollis hopes community members will think of the city’s future.

Springfield voters will see an issue on the ballot this November, settling the long dispute between a developer and neighborhood association regarding a multifamily housing unit in Galloway Village. Springfield, Ollis says, is at a tipping point: “It’s not a vote about an apartment complex in Galloway, it’s a vote whether our community wants to move forward and grow with the future.”

This content is brought to you by Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance & Business Advisors.

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