Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series featuring some of the writing of author Quint Studer.
Florida-based author and Founder of the Studer Community Institute, Quint Studer, has served as a mentor for the city of Springfield’s growth and development for The Chamber of Greater Springfield for almost two years.
The Chamber and Studer continue their collaboration to build a vibrant community in Clark County, conversing monthly about moving forward in unprecedented times.
A recent blog post by Studer offers insight to how local leaders are helping to reshape the character and population of small towns in America.
“I’ve spent the last two years traveling across the country working with small to mid-sized towns on their revitalization efforts. And what I find is they’re getting lots of things right,” writes Studer. “Civic-minded entrepreneurs and private citizens have taken the bull by the horns and are working hard to make their communities the best they can be. They’re finding ways to reinvent themselves, attract the right kinds of business, and transform into great places to work, live, and play.”
Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for The Chamber of Greater Springfield, agrees and says the Chamber’s job is to keep a pulse on what the issues are in the community and bring people together collectively to make a difference.
“We are aligned, we are being strategic, and we are educating ourselves to do it the right way,” says Hobbs. “We are having intentional conversations with all levels of leadership so we all come together around common issues.”
One of those issues Studer touched on in his blog is connecting change initiatives to what citizens care about most such as: What can we do to keep our children and grandchildren from leaving town?
“We have to look at this generation and the generations coming up and ‘what are we doing to keep those kids here and attracting them?’” says Hobbs. “It’s more than just strategies around quality of life amenities and downtown revitalization; it’s about really doing intentional things to connect our schools to our business community so students see pathways to opportunity in the community. The perception of ‘there is nothing to do in Springfield’ is not true.”
Hobbs says the goal is to retain as many of our young adults and families as possible and show them that Springfield is a good community to grow up and raise a family in.
Studer also encourages making education a priority.
“A strong education system creates a strong talent base and appeals to investors,” Studer writes.
Kendra Burnside is the talent and education coordinator for The Chamber. She has been meeting with school districts all over Clark County.
“She has been having poignant conversations with every district about opportunities in Springfield and engaging students in their future plans,” Hobbs says.
Studer also says small towns are changing the conversation on who drives revitalization.
“It’s important to get citizens engaged in change,” he writes. “They (not government) have to lead the way. Leaders are getting people talking about and looking at the community in a new way.”
The Chamber is also meeting with economic development partners to create more career opportunities for current and future generations, Hobbs says.
A capital campaign bringing almost $4.1 million to the area during a pandemic speaks volumes, he says. The funds will support economic and workforce development across community.
“We had detailed meetings with investors,” says Hobbs. “We flipped the 40 percent of funding from the private sector and 60 percent from government funding to 60 percent from the private sector and 40 percent from government. The private sector has to lead these conversations.”
Studer says community leaders are also starting to realize it’s not just about starting businesses, but about keeping them growing.
The Chamber is also working on the development of intentional business training programs.
“This only works with partners like Clark State and the Small Business Development Center working closely with us to amplify current training curriculums, then bring in training suites that Quint Studer and his team have deployed in other communities,” Hobbs says.
This, he added, includes structured conversation about asset mapping, training available to small businesses, women-and minority-owned businesses and what ecosystem is being created for them to be successful.
“We want to identify the gaps and fill the gaps with intentional training to help small business owners be successful,” Hobbs says. “They have great ideas … we need to be intentional about how we are supporting them. Our role is to support their growth.”