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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

Stop the Flee (Sponsor Letter)

SBJ Economic Growth Survey: Demographic Shifts

Posted online

Thirty-eight percent of Springfield Business Journal Economic Growth Survey business leader respondents are planning an exit from their business. The average business leader is nine years from exiting their company.

Respondents who are 18-34 years of age are on average planning to exit in less than 10 years. Interesting isn’t it? The first year of the survey, it seemed perhaps a fluke, a misunderstanding that would lead to such a high percentage of our youngest business leaders planning to exit. So, we added two clarifying questions to the survey in years two and three: “Why do you plan to exit your business?” And “What exit scenarios are you likely to pursue?”

It was not a fluke. Of those 18-34 years of age planning to exit, they plan to retire (62.5%) or find better opportunities (37.5%). Keep in mind this age group does not account for a large number of respondents. They make up less than 10%. And 38.1% have no plans at all to exit.

But the directional data is no less interesting – especially when we look at respondent plans to move. Upon retirement, roughly 40% of people plan to relocate full-time out of the Springfield area – unless they’re over 55 years of age. Then only about three out of every 10 people plan to leave.

This is a terrible loss of valued people in our community. Plus, we continue to lament the brain drain from our universities and colleges, which remains an issue that we need to address.

How does Springfield become a must-stay community to work, live and invest?

There are a few things in the works. Springfield is undergoing some transformative projects. They range in scale and scope from communitywide to neighborhoods to individuals.

The installation of high-speed fiber internet to every household and business will help attract people and companies alike. Expectations have changed for employees and employers. Now, employees are able to pick jobs without consideration of where to live. And vice versa, they are able to select where to live without consideration of the local job market. Springfield has the potential to win in both scenarios with this level of connectivity citywide.

The Grant Avenue Parkway project, a 3-mile stretch connecting our revitalized downtown to the Wonders of Wildlife and Bass Pro Shops campus with a variety of infrastructure improvements like bike and pedestrian friendly facilities, should help stimulate private development in the area for residents and tourists.

Our community has also set a goal to reduce our poverty rate to 20.7% by 2025. At its highest it was 29.7% in 2013, according to Census data. With many agencies working together, our poverty rate dropped to 22.9% by the end of 2019. Organizations like The Kitchen and Rare Breed are working to connect people to valuable resources to end their homelessness including the direst of circumstances with individuals earning less than 30% of area median income ($12,880 annually). The Dream Center and The Drew Lewis Foundation at The Fairbanks are helping people achieve financial and housing stability. And the O’Reilly Center for Hope is an amazing collaboration of more than a dozen organizations. This single site reduces transportation and other access barriers for services to those living in poverty or experiencing homelessness. In this issue, you can read more about what has been done and what is yet to be done to continue to improve Springfield’s poverty rate.

I am always proud of the work our community does to identify and address our most important issues. I hope the 30-40% of individuals who are planning to leave the area upon retirement find that when that day comes, they simply can’t because they have fallen in love with our community and can’t wait to stay!

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