Springfield, MO

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Opinion: A regional mindset needed for growth

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At the Think Summit 2024 in April, Erin Danastasio and Dean Thompson announced a new, regional nonprofit focusing on workforce attraction, quality of life and regional branding. The organization’s name is Leaders for Ozarks Region Evolvement, or LORE.

The Hatch Foundation, under the leadership of Danastasio, had the original vision for this idea. I am excited about the many ways businesses, communities and individuals will benefit from the work LORE will undertake. My feelings are based largely on my experiences and observations in northwest Arkansas, where I spent more than 20 years before moving here several years ago. There, I witnessed firsthand the work of a similar nonprofit organization: the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Southwest Missouri continues to grow at an exceptional rate. The population growth in the Springfield metropolitan area from 2010 to 2020 was 8.9%, far exceeding the 2.8% growth in the state. Anytime a region is experiencing significant growth like we are, it becomes critical to plan ahead to absorb that growth in a healthy way and sustain future growth in a way that benefits the region as a whole.

One of the most challenging things about the growth we’ve experienced is often the shift in thinking required to understand that maintaining the status quo can be the very thing that hinders future growth. I believe we will all need to embrace a new way of thinking to understand that regionalism allows us to create beneficial partnerships while protecting our sense of provincial identity.

Consider the interplay among the cities of Springfield, Republic, Nixa and Ozark. If Springfield successfully recruits a new, modern manufacturing plant requiring 600 employees, some employees will live within the Springfield city limits, but many will live in the surrounding communities. They will shop, dine and enjoy recreational activities in areas across our region. In this scenario, business and civic leaders across the region are incentivized to cooperate, coordinate and collaborate to benefit their respective communities, while the region as a whole also benefits from these partnerships.

Much like in the scenario I describe here, Danastasio described the vision of LORE and its potential impact on the Springfield region as being rooted in community and understanding.

“We need to work together to create a strong regional community,” Danastasio said, “understanding the struggles each city or county has and finding solutions to support each other while celebrating the wins of others in our region and understanding that a win for our neighbor is a win for all.”

I want to encourage more than just business and civic leaders across the region to embrace the idea that we will all benefit when we collaborate and work together to make the Ozarks an attractive area for companies to do business. We want to be a region that offers a solid and capable workforce, an attractive and desirable quality of life and a region that works together for the benefit of all.

Jason England is the president and CEO of Arvest Bank in Springfield. He can be reached at


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