Commentary: Springfield is ripe for growth says vibrancy expert

Thank you for the opportunity to spend some time in your community. I work with communities across the country to help them find the best path toward vibrancy-a journey enhances that distinct “sense of place” that makes them great places to live, work, and visit. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about what makes communities thrive. And what I see in Springfield is encouraging.

Two big predictors of success are self-awareness and engagement. Springfield is strong in both. After doing an assessment and meeting with local leaders and citizens, I know you are both objective about where you stand now, and enthusiastic about the future you can create. It’s a powerful combination.

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I have every reason to believe this is Springfield’s moment in time. Conditions are right for your community to take off and I feel that sense of urgency that means a place is ripe for growth.

A few of my observations:

• Springfield is well-positioned to be an entrepreneurial hub. It’s inexpensive to move here. There is plenty of office space. Springfield is the perfect spot for entrepreneurs who want to be part of a thriving community right from the start. (This happened in Austin, Texas, and it can happen here.)

• There is massive opportunity downtown. Springfield has great bones. There are already some cool shops and that’s a good starting point. Now imagine having 10 or 20 times that number. People love vibrant, walkable, livable downtowns with plenty to see and do. By taking just a few steps-like slowing traffic and creating smart programming (festivals, fun runs, art walks, etc.)-you can start drawing people downtown.

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• Downtown Springfield is uniquely poised to create an “entertainment district” and an “entrepreneurial district.” With these two pieces in place, cool residential options will follow and things will really start moving.

• There’s a strong young professionals group. Springfield’s young people (like young people everywhere) want a vibrant downtown and booming local economy. They have the energy to drive change and keep the momentum going.

• Citizens are already engaged. I was thrilled by attendance at the public forum at City Hall Forum on Jan. 16. I hope Springfield will continue the civic education that helps people understand what leaders want to do. Education generates even more engagement, which leads to civic empowerment.

• Wittenberg University, Clark State Community College, and Global Impact Stem Academy are all shining stars.

• Springfield has a beautiful landscape (including water)! Fifteen minutes outside the city you can live on a farm if you like. You also have the water, which you could really leverage in the age of ecotourism. Maximize downtown and you’ll have the total package.

So much of a community’s success comes down to how it sees itself. For Springfield, the future is as bright as you think it is. You have the raw ingredients, the leadership, and the enthusiasm to create something big. The timing couldn’t be better. Let’s build on the great foundation you already have, stay positive, get some early wins, and keep momentum going. What happens will be amazing.

Quint Studer is founder of Vibrant Community Partners and author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change is Reshaping America. To learn more please visit www.studeri.org and www.vibrantcommunityblueprint.com.


Share your opinions with Forward Progress Springfield on what you think the next steps should be in making downtown Springfield a vibrant community. To take the survey, visit:

Explorehttp://bit.ly/StuderSurvey

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