Welcome To the Intersection of Workforce Attraction, Placemaking (Sponsored Content)

Sponsored by Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance & Business Advisors

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Local business leaders know a thriving community relies on a strong workforce. That’s evident by responses to Springfield Business Journal’s 2021 Economic Growth Survey, where attracting and retaining talent ranked second in importance over the next five years. That’s also one reason quality of place is a strategic priority in Forward SGF, the effort to create a 20-year blueprint for the city, says Richard Ollis, a member of Springfield City Council and CEO and chairman of Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance & Business Advisors.

City officials say amenities like parks and trails, a vibrant arts scene, and destination food and retail areas are vital to local talent attraction efforts.

“If you’re a community that has capitalized on that quality of place, you’re going to have the workforce,” Ollis says. “People are going to live in places that have amenities they enjoy.”

Many exciting efforts in Springfield are underway now, he says. For instance, the Springfield Art Museum’s master plan includes connecting to Phelps Grove Park and naturalizing Fassnight Creek.

“The art museum will be a destination in itself. So, that is placemaking,” Ollis says. “The Grant Avenue Parkway project is placemaking. The daylighting of Jordan Creek is placemaking. The IDEA Commons that’s being developed by (Missouri State University), the Vecino Group and the city is placemaking. Greenways trails – a huge placemaking opportunity.”

Along with those efforts, investment in schools, fiber optic internet and affordable housing will help Springfield grow and thrive as a community, he says.

As marketing and events manager for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Rachael Mhire manages its Talent Attraction Initiative. Using online resources, the chamber tries to reach people considering a community like Springfield.

“I think there is that trend nationally where people are finding places that are more cost effective to live,” she says. “The more we’re improving our quality of place, the better it’s going to show when people arrive here.”

She cites one example when a woman from New Mexico was seeking an affordable, centrally located area for her family near a lake. She flew in to explore Table Rock Lake but then spent time in Springfield.

“And she left here having put an offer on a house,” Mhire says.

When it comes to attracting talent, Springfield competes against similar communities like Bentonville, Arkansas, and Des Moines, Iowa, says Jessica Olson, managing partner for Maxon Fine Jewelry and current chair of The Network, a chamber program for young professionals.

“We’ve made great strides,” she says, “but we need to make sure we’re keeping up with other cities that are like ours, or we’re going to fall behind.”

In today’s post-2020 job environment, more people also work remotely. If so, Olson says, “What is going to attract you to the city? It’s going to be those amenities. So, we need to focus on what people can do in their free time.”

Additonally, she says, more local businesses are adopting flexibility in schedules and work locations.

“So, those flexible schedules allow people to take advantage of all those great things we’re trying to do,” she says.

Ollis agrees. The pandemic forced his company to accelerate allowing flexible schedules and remote work options, which young professionals in particular desire. With the exception of industries that require on-site work, companies that don’t adapt will lose employees, Ollis says. Not only that, he says communities where flexible cultures are the norm – so workers can take advantage of placemaking efforts – will attract more talent overall.

“The game has changed,” Ollis says. “It absolutely is an attraction and retention piece for businesses as we move forward.”

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