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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In his inaugural State of the City address, held this morning at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Springfield! program at Parkview High School, Mayor Ken McClure said Springfield is overall in good health, he is optimistic for the future, and the reason for that is its people.
“I am constantly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the generation of young adults entering civic life in Springfield,” McClure said. “Both the young and those young at heart are stepping up and claiming their spot to help ensure our community is one in which all people can thrive.”
A crowd of about 300 gathered to hear McClure’s address, which he said he was honored to give at his alma mater. Parkview celebrated its 60th anniversary during the 2016-2017 school year, and McClure said he fondly recalls celebrating the win of the 1964-1965 Vikings’ boys’ basketball team’s state championship.
McClure thanked his colleagues on City Council for their service, dedication and friendship. He also recognized and thanked those in attendance who had served on City Council in the past.
“We take our roles as public servants and servant leadership very, very seriously. I thank each of my colleagues, sincerely, for the role they have played and will continue to play, as our community’s future unfolds. We have a real opportunity to move our city forward in the right direction in the right way,” he said.
McClure also recognized and thanked the Springfield Police Department and Fire Department.
“These men and women regularly put their lives on the line to protect us and keep us safe, often without us even being aware of their efforts. They deserve our admiration and respect.”
Next, McClure referenced the City of Springfield’s many accreditations and recognized and thanked City staff for their dedication and expertise.
“I believe the City of Springfield is one of the best-run municipalities in the nation,” McClure said. “Our staff continues to offer high-quality services in a manner citizens deserve and expect.”
The mayor shared that his family ancestry in Springfield dates back to before the Civil War, and that he was blessed to come from a hardworking family that cemented his work ethic early in life.
“… I helped my dad in his appliance store in downtown Springfield. My mother was a dedicated teacher, serving in t his very building for 27 years, teaching business law, salesmanship and typing – and shaping young minds,” McClure said. “Growing up in Springfield in the 1960s, I did not always realize what a great place it was to live. I realize that now, and I also realize that a lot is at stake in making it an even BETTER place to live.”
He added that he is both proud and humbled to be the mayor of his hometown.
“I have always believed that Springfieldians have a unique spirit, and I know that our City staff and elected officials are eager to do whatever it takes to capture that spirit and use it to guide us to a brighter future,” McClure said.
McClure said he believed that great cities are built on innovation, creativity, courage and the power of good people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work.
“In other words, great cities emerge from the sound decisions built on a good foundation,” he said.
He referenced the April Build My Future event held at the E-Plex, which drew 900 high school students from across the region to learn about opportunities in construction and business-related trades through a hands-on approach, as well as other recent job training, workforce development and economic development efforts to provide residents with the skills and opportunities for good jobs.
“… We must combine compassion and empathy for our neighbors while providing them with the tools they need to earn a living for their families,” McClure said. “… Of course, city government cannot and should not address all of our challenges alone. But what we can do – and what we will continue to do – is use our capacity to convene and our ability to work together across all sorts of boundaries to make life better for everyone. We have said it many times before, but our bias toward collaboration is not a talking point in Springfield. It’s a way of life.”
McClure said that City Council recently met to discuss what their priorities should be in the coming months and years, and came to a consensus that their focus will be in a handful of areas: economic vitality, fiscal sustainability, public safety and enhanced legislative engagement. He said that Council also discussed how they will more effectively utilize their committee structure to carry out those priorities.
McClure referenced that Springfield is home to two major health systems, the state’s second-largest university, a number of corporate headquarters and a diverse mix of industries that support the local economy.
“From Fortune 500 employers and global companies to countless local success stories of small businesses that were born out of great ideas and willingness to take risks, Springfield provides exciting opportunities in nearly every industry,” he said. “Springfield is also a great place for budding entrepreneurs to realize their dreams.”
He added that job growth is strong – 45 percent of the nearly 600 employers who responded to the Momentum State of the Workforce survey facilitated by the City’s Department of Workforce Development indicated they expect to hire additional full-time employees in the next year and 55 percent of the employers plan to hire additional full-time staff over the next three to five years.
“Over the past 18 months, businesses announced nine new major projects, which created 707 new jobs with more than $33 million in new payroll and more than $187 million in new capital investment,” McClure said.
He cited new facilities under construction at Partnership Industrial Center West for JRI Holdings and Vital Farms, expansions at O’Reilly Auto Parts, Kraft-Heinz, SRC Logistics and 3M and the reimagined Wonders of Wildlife museum that will be “the largest and most immersive fish and wildlife attraction in the world.” He thanked Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris for creating a “game changer” in the country and said Springfield is grateful for the impact his entrepreneurial spirit has on our community.
McClure cited the most recent Citizen Satisfaction Survey that indicated that Springfield citizens are 15 percent more satisfied than the Kansas/Missouri average and 12 percent higher than the national average. He also cited Moody’s Investor Services’ reaffirmation of the City’s Aa rating, demonstrating our continued strong creditworthiness. Moody’s described the City’s financial position as “expected to remain healthy over the near-term given our prudent fiscal management and current satisfactory reserve levels, which provides an adequate cushion against fluctuating sales tax revenues.”
“Though City departments have done a good job of running efficiently and keeping our expenditures down and within budget, the cost of providing high-quality services that our citizens want and deserve continues to increase, and they are outpacing our modest growth in revenue – including the volatile revenue source we most depend on – sales tax.
“While it could make our prognosis for fiscal health in the future concerning, we are committed to finding solutions to our financial needs that will serve us both now and into the future. … The City of Springfield staff and elected officials do a good job of not only asking ‘what it is we want,’ but also ‘what it is we can afford,’” McClure said.
The mayor cited Springfield’s aging sewer infrastructure as an example.
“Nationwide, more than 100 cities are under federal or state environmental mandates to upgrade their wastewater systems, but may lack the funding and political will to invest in projects that are never glamourous and sometimes not even visible,” McClure said. “Springfield’s overflow control plan – a consent decree reached with the Environmental Protection Agency, which promises $200 million in the City’s sewer system – is a plan which would have cost us $600 million if it were not built on ingenuity. EPA has agreed to let us try new things, such as a successful approach to spend a relatively small amount of money fixing private inflow and infiltration (I&I) to save a large amount of money on downstream, expensive facilities.”
McClure said that public safety is the Council’s top priority.
“Unfortunately, our needs clearly outweigh our resources. But we are working to identify existing resources that may be of use,” he said. “The proposed operating budget for next year includes ongoing funding for the 21 police officers obtained through federal grants over the past several years. This is a commitment made over the last three years, and it is a priority we intend to keep.”
He added that City staff, at Council’s direction, is investigating whether we could use existing funds from the Level Property Tax to move forward on critical public safety capital needs, such as equipment for firefighters and police officers, which are currently unfunded.
The proactive approach of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to address public health issues also has a major effect on public safety, McClure said. He cited the Regional Health Assessment and the Community Health Advocate program as examples.
The mayor said City Council wants to increase their personal engagement in the state legislative process and provide helpful input to the state delegation.
“It helps both the City and state if our legislators understand our issues and concerns. Our legislators have a difficult job and must weigh countless priorities. We want to be supportive and helpful,” he said.
McClure ended the address by sharing his story of appearing on The Mystery Hour and how host Jeff Houghton issued a rallying cry for people to build something here in Springfield rather than going somewhere else and being a part of someone else’s machine. Springfield is home to innovators, entrepreneurs, business owners and dreamers … people creating something on their own, he said.
“I agree with Jeff – Springfield is the kind of place you can make up what you want to do … I would encourage you, if you are not already doing so, to get involved, whether it is on one of our City volunteer boards or commissions, or in numerous other ways that you can give back to the community. Make the investment of time,” McClure said.
“In closing, let me say that I am so encouraged by what the future holds for Springfield. Walt Whitman said, ‘A great city is that which has the greatest men and women.’ By that measure, Springfield is truly a great city.”
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Download transcript of address
For more information, contact Director of Public Information and Civic Engagement Cora Scott at 417-864-1009 or 417-380-3352 or [email protected]