On Jan. 25, the Springfield Metro Partnership held its 38th Salute to the Legislators in Jefferson City, an annual reception following meetings between Springfield area organizations and state lawmakers.
At the meetings, Springfield leaders laud the successes of the legislature and laid out their priorities for 2023.
While each participating organization has its own individual priorities — and many with a lobbyist to help further those priorities in the legislature — the Partnership is an opportunity to show a united front for Springfield.
The Partnership is a collective including the City of Springfield, City Utilities, Greene County, Libraries and Arts Council Alliance, Missouri State University, Ozarks Technical Community College, Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Regional Economic Partnership and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
Collaboration key to forwarding local legislative priorities
The collaborative voice is distinctive and vital for Springfield’s success, according to Brian Hammons, the president of Hammons Black Walnuts and the chair-elect of the board of directors for the Springfield Chamber.
“Springfield is unique in that leaders, officials from all these different areas in the community, come together and work together,” Hammons said. “But that doesn’t always happen in other cities, so they appreciate that.”
Mark Hecquet, the new president of the Springfield CVB and former president of the Visitor’s Bureau in Butler County, Ohio, mirrored what Hammons had to say with the perspective of what he’s seen in another state.
“The collaboration here in Springfield is something I’ve never experienced in terms of the community’s ability to come together to work arm-in-arm on some legislative issues and come to Jefferson City unified,” Hecquet said. “…Perhaps Springfield’s success at the legislative level has been because of that.”
Hecquet was joined by the now-former Springfield CVB president, Tracy Kimberlin, who retired at the end of 2022. Having served in that role for 35 years, Kimberlin had attended the vast majority of the Salute to the Legislator events and had long been a part of that collaboration.
Hecquet said that the partnership resonates well with legislators, both those from the local delegation and others from different parts of the state, and their receptivity was “refreshing” to see.
The Partnership met with the Governor, legislators to discuss the needs of Springfield
Earlier in the day, prior to the event, Hecquet, Hammons and leaders from most of the other organizations met with Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and legislators to celebrate recent successes and sought to address challenges facing Springfield.
“We met with the leadership on issues that we all agree,” said MSU President Clif Smart. “…We all come together, and it’s really helpful to have all of these entities supporting funding for higher ed.”
At the Capitol, the Partnership outlined several “guiding principles,” and their accompanying priorities:
- Economic Development
- Supportive of tax credit programs to stimulate employment and leverage private investment
- Opposed to reducing programs that help impact job creation and return on investment
- Balance the protection of natural resources and regional economic growth
- Elementary and Secondary Education
- Fully funding Missouri’s K-12 foundation and transportation funding formulas
- Supportive of high and rigorous academic standards
- Investing in early childhood education
- Libraries and the Arts
- Opposed to budgetary restraints on distribution of funds from the Non-Resident Professional Athletes and Entertainers Tax
- Restore state aid to libraries and Remote Electronic Access to Libraries
- Supportive of local authority on access to library materials
- Local Authority
- With the exception of emergency circumstances, the governor or the state should not be able to override local authority
- Higher Education
- Supportive of eliminating core funding disparities and funding capital priorities of MSU and OTC
- Local Funding
- Supportive of increased funding for Greene County’s criminal justice system, continued collection of sales tax on out-of-state vehicles and improving public safety
- Travel and Tourism Industry
- Fully funding the Division of Tourism
- Education and Workforce Development
- Fully, equitably funding the foundation formula, critical infrastructure for universities and colleges
- Investment in state’s workforce development system Missouri One Start and the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant
- Find innovative solutions for workforce barriers such as childcare, transportation and mental health
- Preserving Local Elections
- Preserving nonpartisanship in local elections and continue to allow them to be held in April
- State Investments and Financial Future
- Balancing the state budget
- Strategic allocation of ARPA (American Rescue Plan) funds
- Transportation and Infrastructure
- Collaborate and find alternative funding sources for transportation infrastructure
- Acceleration of transportation projects with financial aid of local communities
- Restored funding for Springfield’s public transit
- Opposed to the transfer of state-owned roadways to local entities
- Supportive of broadband expansion
“The Springfield community and the Springfield region really work well together to talk about priorities and things that they have in common, which are a lot of things,” Hammons said.
Establishing a unified voice on these core issues can help legislators do a better job advocating for Springfield, Hammons said.
The Chamber a catalyst for collaboration in Springfield, Jefferson City
While the priorities were drafted with each organization’s input, and the event put on by the Partnership, the Chamber regularly plays the primary role in convening and crafting the communal agenda.
“What the Chamber has done is get the leaders of various organizations within the community together to share ideas, to share information,” Hammons said. “We all care about the community, we don’t want to step on each other’s toes. There’s some wisdom in the collective group, and being able to discuss kinds of things that are important.”
The collective group wasn’t just Partnership organizations and politicians, however. The Salute to the Legislature was attended by local attorneys, business people and other community members.
Mike Powers, the CEO of The Arc of the Ozarks, a Springfield-based company that provides services to support persons with disabilities, was in attendance with a handful of his executive staff, including VP Tim Dygon.
While they weren’t there for the same lobbying efforts as other organizations, The Arc, who are active members of the Chamber, relies heavily on state funding, so developing relationships with the legislators and educating them on the issues they face are vital to their success.
“This is a good [event],” Powers said. “You can talk to all of them right here in two hours.”
Establishing relationships with the newly elected legislators and re-establishing connections with those who have helped spearhead their priorities in the General Assembly stands to potentially benefit the Partnership’s ability to help further Springfield’s development and growth.
“This also helps establish a stronger relationship for later in the [legislative] session,” Hammons said. “We may see something that they should be aware of, they see something that could be beneficial to the southwest Missouri region.”