Several local entities are working together to host two days of discussions this month to identify strategies to improve Springfield’s downtown, but also to focus on issues from improving education to reducing crime rates in the community.
Most of the meetings will bring together local school district superintendents and organizations like the Turner Foundation and the United Way. But the highlight will be a public forum hosted by Quint Studer, a Florida businessman and philanthropist who had a prominent role in an effort to improve downtown Pensacola, Fla. Studer is scheduled to speak at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 at the City Hall Forum in downtown Springfield. Groups involved will meet on both Jan. 16 and Thursday, Jan. 17.
“This is something we’re going to try to do every year to bring in an expert that has dealt with a challenge we’re seeing that impacts our community or who sees opportunities that we’re trying to take advantage of,” said Michael McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield.
Other entities involved in what’s being called the Forward Progress ‘19 Committee include the City of Springfield, Clark State Community College, Wittenberg University the Springfield Foundation, Clark County and the chamber.
Pensacola was facing many of the same challenges as Springfield, with several vacant downtown properties and a struggling economy. McDorman said that city has made significant progress to address those issues, and Studer’s discussion will highlight what Springfield is doing right and where there’s still room for improvement.
“Here we are 15 years later and their downtown was voted as one of the top 10 revitalization projects in America this past year,” McDorman said of Pensacola.
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McDorman said downtown Springfield has seen significant improvement including new businesses opening on Fountain Avenue and a new parking garage expected to start construction this year. The committee’s goal is to identify areas for further improvement and look for opportunities to address those issues. Studer’s talk will highlight what worked in Pensacola and what officials there learned from their effort.
“He’s going to go into detail on the important keys a community needs to look toward to be successful,” McDorman said.
That includes finding ways to attract investment to the city, but it also includes issues like improving education to provide a more qualified workforce and boosting the number of people in the workforce, he said. Local leaders also need to set goals and track progress on those kinds of issues to determine whether efforts to improve are successful, he said.
“It’s about getting the community engaged and continuing the momentum that’s already been done,” McDorman said.
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