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Danny Perches’ promotion at the end of 2022 has some in the development community applauding the move.
Brought on by the city of Springfield 18 months prior to a new position in the city manager’s office, Perches became the assistant director of Economic Vitality.
In City Manager Jason Gage’s office, Perches had served as the city’s first development project facilitator. City officials at the time explained that he would regularly review the status of all development projects in Springfield, working with developers to move projects through the review process while recommending process improvements to management.
In his Economic Vitality post, Perches continues in the same vein, working with Director Amanda Ohlensehlen on economic and community development project coordination and on helping to formulate policy.
The Economic Vitality Department was created in 2021 to separate the city’s economic development function from the activities of the Planning & Development Department, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Ohlensehlen was hired as director last year.
Developer Curtis Jared said elevating Perches is one of the smartest decisions city leaders have made.
“Probably one of the best things I’ve seen Springfield do is hire Danny Perches,” Jared said. “He’s a great advocate for developers to help them navigate through the city on issues they’re having.”
Perches knows the terrain, according to Jared.
“Red tape really drags out a project,” Jared said. “We’re not a small city anymore. We’re a large city, and we need some efficiencies. We’ve got to try to streamline things.”
Perches came to the city from the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, where he served as economic development project manager for six years. The role made him familiar with both people and processes.
Perches said city staff meet with business representatives early on, and they can suggest programs, paths and alternative options, rather than businesses having to go it alone.
“A lot of what I’ve done and what I’ve encouraged staff to do is really provide a strong narrative for what the process is,” he said. “It may be perceived as cumbersome or arduous, but if we can explain to the applicant or customer what the process is going to be like, that’s received much better than to have a surprise delay.”
One recent bit of Perches’ problem-solving involved a proposed 7 Brew Coffee on Sunshine Road and Jefferson Avenue. Jared’s development company, Jared Enterprises Inc., represented developer Royce Reding in the deal.
“That’s a perfect example,” Jared said. “Danny asked, ‘What’s the problem here, and what do we all need to do to sit down and work through this?’”
He added that developers must commit to timelines, and delays can threaten deals.
“If we’re getting bogged down in the city, that gives the tenant the ability to terminate a deal, which costs the city jobs, tax revenue and all the other ancillary benefits. It has a ripple effect. Time is money in this industry.”
In addition to 7 Brew Coffee, Perches said he has also had a hand in Buc-ee’s, the Bricks & Minifigs aftermarket Lego toy shop, The Coffee Ethic and Whataburger.
Springfield ups its game
Sean Thouvenot, vice president of construction company Branco Enterprises Inc., agrees with Jared’s assessment: Perches is a good get.
“Danny’s done a fine job in his role,” he said. “He has experience in the chamber dealing with multiple personalities and seeing the business side of things as opposed to saying we can’t do this or that because of code.
“You can call and he’ll call you back and do what he can to fix a situation, and sometimes he’ll direct you to the right person to get what you need.
Thouvenot brought up the city of Republic, which, with its Builds office, is often touted by the development community for its streamlined approach to construction.
“Republic is super fast,” Thouvenot said. “They use a common-sense approach to things, and they don’t let the rules dictate ‘that’s just the way we always did it.’ They’re open to new ideas and new ways to get things done.”
With the establishment of the Economic Vitality office, Thouvenot said Springfield has upped its game by providing personalized assistance throughout the development process and by moving more quickly with permitting and other procedures.
“They have made tremendous progress in the last two years,” he said.
Thouvenot also praised the city’s appointment of Brock Rowe as director of Building Development Services, the office that implements and monitors city, state and federal codes.
“He’s extremely common-sense minded,” Thouvenot said of Rowe. “He wants to figure out a way to do it instead of not to do it.”
Having Tim Rosenbury as the city’s director of quality of place has also been a good move, Thouvenot said, noting Springfield has excellent prospects for growth.
“As long as we can stay out of our own way, we’ll be good,” he said.
Vitality a focus
When announcing Perches’ appointment as assistant director of Economic Vitality, Ohlensehlen also praised his experience in building strong relationships between the public and private sectors.
“He has a passion for making Springfield a vibrant place and will help us advance goals outlined in Forward SGF,” she said.
Forward SGF is the city’s comprehensive plan, recently approved to direct the city’s land use through 2040.
“A lot of what we’re focusing on is championing efforts that are written out in the comprehensive plan and looking at what we can do for the next 20 years or so to make the city look like what we spelled it out to be there,” Perches said.
Forward SGF is a land-use plan that considers place types instead of conventional zoning. Perches explained that some areas have been identified as catalyst sites, where certain types of development are anticipated and are likely to spur on further growth.
“The comprehensive plan gives us that flexibility as the years go by, anticipating what the city’s going to look like 20 years from now and what we’d like it to look like,” he said.
Perches said the Economic Vitality team brings together multiple talents.
The city also has a development core team, with representatives from all departments that interface with development processes, he said.
“We meet once a month, and our goal is to look for efficiencies and perhaps take a deeper look into some processes that may be a little more cumbersome to make the process more streamlined,” he said.
As Thouvenot and Jared said, Springfield continues to be a hub of activity.
“We continue to get inquiries and there’s continued interest,” Perches said. “We’ve seen no indication of it slowing down.”
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