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Economic Policy in Downtown Development

When the Heer’s Tower closed down in the 1960’s, the downtown area of Springfield, MO. lost a major economic and entertaining element. Since then, Springfield has been planning and working to get back a lot of the status that it once had. The city government had to bring attractions and business in the form of new business’s to spur development to accommodate the 151,580 citizens that reside in the small city.

Mayor Tom Carlson and City Manager Tom Finnie have been heading the projects with the help of large developing firms such as the UDA or Urban District Alliance, and hope that projects such as the redevelopment of Heer’s Tower, SMSU’s Innovation center, and College Station will add not only attractions for the mass of people flooding into Springfield each year, but also bring in hundreds of new jobs to boost the economy and help support a growing society.

Over the next couple of pages an analysis of the current and future projects, as well as the non-quantitative benefits and effects on the surrounding community will be looked at to further explain why the project is on the community’s agenda. Tom Carlson calls the development of the downtown area, the “Center City. ” “It will be a city within a city. ” Not to long ago though Springfield was in a slump, after the huge factories of Zenith and GE went out of business, the only other major factory was Kraft. During the 1950’s, These companies employed thousands of workers and once they were out of the picture the economy started to level out.

The opportunity to have the Center City, started in the 1980’s when sub-divisions around Springfield and surrounding towns, such as Nixa and Ozark, started booming. Since then, developer’s such as John Q. Hammons and new faces like Vaughn Post have sparked projects that have created a substantial buzz across the state. The developers took the idea of a new downtown and ran with it, using tax advantages such as state and historic tax credits, property tax abatement, gap financing and loans up to $40,000 to make facade improvements.

Also, a low- interest loan program, using Community Development Block Grant Funds, has provided help for many business people. Since 1997, about $125 million has been invested in Center City. All of these tax breaks and policies have led to some astonishing developments in employment and economic gains. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), Springfield accounts for just 3% of Missouri’s workforce, but the area has created one-fourth of all new jobs in the state between March 2002 and March 2003, while Kansas City has reported net job loss and St. Louis reported minimal gains.

Noting these facts, it is no surprise that the City is fully behind the idea of developing the downtown area, for it will provide hundreds of business opportunities as well as entertainment value for the entire city. The development of the plans have been in the works for several years. Ideas, money and developers had to come together as well as the support of the community for any of the first steps to be taken. When looking at the plan from a public policy maker’s point of view, one has to take into account every possible angle. Dr. Deborah Stone, uses a couple of key points to assess any spending or policy before implementing it.

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