Some of Christian County’s top economic development and elected officials received sound advice.
In what was part pep talk and part stern talking-to from a big brother, Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce Ryan Mooney addressed Christian County officials at the Show Me Christian County key investor meeting at Fremont Hills on June 24.
Mooney started off by answering a rhetorical question about Springfield’s interest in two of its key suburbs.
“What is the Springfield Chamber of Commerce doing dealing with Christian County and supporting Christian County? Our approach to economic development has been a regional approach for more than two decades,” Mooney said.
Springfield and its surrounding communities have to think differently, Mooney said. It’s not about Ozark versus Nixa, or Springfield versus the suburbs.
“Companies don’t really think about jurisdictional boundaries they way we do. They look at labor forces, they look at infrastructure capabilities, they look at real estate options. Those can vary based on locations, and are not subject to jurisdictional boundaries,” Mooney said.
The Springfield Chamber of Commerce is pushing for collaboration from a 10-county region. There will be benefits to being part of the team, but Ozark and Nixa will be expected to actively participate.
“Christian County has to pull its own weight in that regional partnership,” Mooney said.
Mooney referred back to 2012, when consultants from TIP Strategies studied northern Christian County and issued a report that eventually led to the formation of Show Me Christian County, an economic development organization funded by the governments of Ozark, Nixa and Christian County. That group did not start as soon as the report dropped, however. The cities of Nixa and Ozark did not come to terms on partnering together for several years.
Mooney, much like the city officials in Ozark and Nixa today, glossed over the past disagreement. Ultimately, the TIP Strategies recommendations are being followed. It just didn’t happen instantly.
“It seems like it was just the other day that TIP Strategies was here,” Mooney said. “That was a great start to bring that expertise here to the community to start looking at the things you should be doing in economic development in Christian County.”
Mooney made three key recommendations to the stakeholders in Christian County. The first recommendation was thinking beyond the city limits.
“I want you all to be thinking regionally and working regionally. Don’t think of yourselves just as Christian County, think of yourselves as Christian County, a key part of the Springfield region, because you are,” Mooney said. “We’re not competing internally, we’re competing as a region with the rest of the world to win our opportunities.”
Christian County, and the rest of the Springfield area, sometimes misses out on landing a big business deal because it can’t accommodate a target company’s needs.
“Christian County really needs to focus in on getting ready for opportunities,” Mooney said.
Mooney said that southwest Missouri often can’t pursue development opportunities because it does not have enough sites ready, proper infrastructure, services and/or qualified workers.
Mooney’s third recommendation was that Ozark and Nixa invest in their futures by taking steps to make the cities good places to live.
“Invest in community. Make your communities an incredible place to be,” Mooney said.