Just shy of two years ago, The Chamber of Greater Springfield President and CEO Mike McDorman received a copy of Building a Vibrant Community by Quint Studer from a friend.
“(My friend) said, ‘I really think you’re going to like this book,’” McDorman says.
McDorman didn’t just like the book – he went on to purchase several more copies and distribute them to community stakeholders. He then invited Studer, author and founder of the Studer Community Institute, to plan a visit to Springfield.
“We’ve been trying to put our arms around building a vibrant community in Springfield for a long time,” McDorman says. “It was catalytic for us. He brought us together in a way that hadn’t happened before. He gave us those key indicators to consider and learn what we can do together.”
As for building a vibrant community in Springfield, Studer says it is key to have stakeholders willing to invest in people and the community, even if they could get a better financial return someplace else.
“It understands staying the same is not an option. They understand it is small ball,” Studer says. “That means a number of steps to achieve the goal. This includes programming the downtown, skill building and investing in start-up businesses and engaging the citizens.”
Studer says he likes how the Chamber and stakeholders are focusing on the bright spots and are pointing out the good things in the community, especially small business entrepreneurship.
“Springfield realizes that the key is providing small businesses and future small business owners the skills to be successful,” he says. “Every city that thrives has what are called ‘impact investors’: local residents who have accumulated wealth and use some of it to invest in the community.”
Investments include revitalizing a building to make it active, supporting skill development and raising the CivicIQ, or engaging the public on best practices for cities.
“Momentum has kept going even during the pandemic,” McDorman says. “We have more developer interest in this town than we have seen in decades. It’s a pretty cool time.”
Studer expects that in five years, the Springfield population will be going up, and downtown will be even more of a great place to live, learn, earn and enjoy.
“Instead of people in Springfield feeling its location is good for ‘it is easy to go to other cities within an hour drive,’ people from those communities are coming to Springfield,” he says.
The Chamber of Greater Springfield committee also toured Pensacola, Florida, with Studer to see how a vibrant community comes together. McDorman says the tour further cemented the work that has been going on in Springfield.
McDorman said the committee converses at least once a month with Studer, who has been a great mentor. The introduction to Studer’s book Building a Vibrant Community, McDorman says, really captures what the Chamber is striving to accomplish. It reads: “Great communities make us feel grounded protected and empowered. They provide jobs and solid economic growth they attract new talent and keep existing talent from leaving town. They do a great job of educating young people. They provide safe neighborhoods, and they nurture the health and well-being of all citizens. They provide a sense of belonging connection and support, and they’re just more fun to live in.”