The Springfield Advantage

Springfield and Sangamon County, IL
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

The state capital of Illinois, Springfield, is ranked as one of the most affordable cities in the United States. The City of Springfield and Sangamon County government works together with business and labor through the Quantum Growth Partnership (Q5) to foster economic growth. With a diverse array of assets and through the strength of partnership, Springfield and Sangamon County are positioned for growth.
The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce advances economic development in Springfield and Sangamon County by coordinating the interests of over a hundred public and private entities from business and labor to local government. Together, this organization is working toward the economic vitality of the region and encouraging its economic development and growth.

Through its expansion, retention and attraction efforts, the chamber supports existing and prospective investments in the community. The chamber actively participates in urban revitalization efforts, is engaged in diversity advancement and transformational leadership activities. It also encourages existing industry sectors to actualize full potential.

The chamber initiates channels of communication between local business owners and corporate executives to identify and address any barriers to growth that exist in the community. The local economy is supported by strong sectors such as government and healthcare, as well as extensive business and financial services, agribusiness, logistics and tourism.

Springfield and Sangamon County benefit from a relatively stable economy that is insulated from market instability. The region is home to significant employment and a consumer base of over ninety million people located within a five hundred mile radius.

Since it is the government seat, Springfield’s largest employer is the state of Illinois. Combined with the presence of the University of Illinois Springfield, Lincoln Land Community College and the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, the result is a significant allotment of resources and opportunity for the county.

Healthcare has been a substantial driver of the economic growth of Springfield and Sangamon County, with a marked nineteen percent growth rate from 2004 to 2014. Over the past five years, over $600 million has been invested in the Mid-Illinois Medical District, which is located just north of downtown Springfield.

This district is home to 2.5 million square feet of facilities which includes Memorial Health Systems, Hospital Sisters Health System St. John’s Hospital, The Prairie Heart Institute, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Springfield Clinic. This healthcare cluster has established Springfield and Sangamon County as leaders in healthcare and medical, and this sector promises additional growth in the future.

An investment of $315 million is being made to improve the area’s transportation infrastructure and to facilitate the future growth of the area. Currently in the early stages of implementation, the Springfield Rail Improvements Project will consolidate two rail corridors into one, creating seven additional underpasses and one overpass to increase logistical efficiency. As the rail corridor currently separates the Mid-Illinois Medical District, the project will improve the community’s connectivity and safety. By making this investment, the area’s two hospitals, medical school and Springfield Clinic better coordinate specialties.

Sangamon County’s transportation related assets make the region ideal for a number of industries, especially warehousing, distribution and advanced manufacturing. Businesses and residents alike are located just hours from larger centers such as St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis and close to the Midwest Inland Port in Decatur. There is also ready access to I-72 and I-55, in addition to four Class 1 rail lines, two short-line railroads and air transportation at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.

Springfield and Sangamon County have several industrial parks with shovel-ready land. In addition to two hundred-acre sites and the Airport Commerce Park, there are two new sixty-acre sites that are shovel-ready with excellent access to both interstate highways.

There are many reasons why this is an ideal place for investment, as well as a great place to work, live and visit. The area serves as a vital commercial hub for central Illinois and is a retail destination. In addition to services and amenities, the region offers many incentives that encourage growth.

This economic strength and access provide a foundation for a great quality of life here. Together, Springfield and Sangamon County give the best of both worlds, from lively downtown streets to the peace and quiet of the rural countryside. Whether you are a retiree, a family in search of community, or someone just starting off, there is something for everyone.

The region has an affordable cost of living without sacrificing quality of life. The area is rich in history, home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Abraham Lincoln’s home and other historical attractions and entertainment options. It also has a growing arts community.

Local leadership and the numerous partner organizations come together for economic and social development in the area are working diligently to respond to the needs of the county’s twenty-seven communities. The goal of the collaboration is to remain a diverse, vibrant, safe and welcoming place for businesses, individuals and families alike.

A major proponent of growth and development is the Quantum Growth Partnership (Q5). A part of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Q5 is a collaboration of private and public entities that are dedicated to a county-wide approach to economic development and job creation.

By engaging government, local business and labor representatives in the county, Q5 encourages economic growth and development. Q5 has streamlined business resources and information and supported local businesses through start-up and development, expansion or relocation. The county has fostered a pro-business environment by capitalizing on available opportunities.

By developing an understanding of the needs of the business community, Springfield and Sangamon County have been able to initiate targeted workforce development efforts to address the needs of local business and industry. One such effort that has been made to ensure a qualified and skilled labor force is the creation of truck driver training programs at two area post-secondary schools. This is a great asset to support the local transportation and logistics-dependent industries that are currently facing challenges related to securing qualified and available employees.

Similarly, a growing local aerospace industry requires trained and qualified people for airframe and power plant maintenance, avionics and airframe painting. Lincoln Land Community College, through a charitable contribution from Levi, Ray & Shoup, came together with StandardAero to expand their aviation maintenance program to address these needs in another partnership geared toward economic development.

In addition to well-performing K-12 education, the county is home to eight highly-rated post-secondary schools: Lincoln Land Community College, University of Illinois Springfield, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Benedictine University, LRS Educational Services, Midwest Technical Institute, St. John’s College of Nursing and ITT Technical Institute.

A strong educational foundation has given the region a highly educated, specialized and diverse workforce from which to draw. Education success rates exceed national averages. One-third of the population holds a bachelor degree or higher, and twelve percent of the population have attained a graduate degree or higher. The area is home to many professionals and innovators.

Until recently, Springfield was the largest metropolitan statistical area in Illinois without a business incubator. Innovative Springfield (i-SPI) has been launched as a creative space designed to support start-ups, social enterprise and business development in the community. The collaborative efforts of i-SPI maintain a focus on innovation and education while encouraging young entrepreneurs in the community.

“This will be a great tool for younger people with aspirations of big dreams and also something to attract people to the Springfield community,” said John Stremsterfer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, which is a funding partner in support of i-SPI. “We’re very enthusiastic about it.”

Q5 and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce provided significant start-up funding for this initiative in 2015, with additional funding to follow in 2016 to accelerate its launch and augment its success. The chamber sees potential in the networking and mentoring opportunities that will result, assets from which entrepreneurs can draw.

Chris Hembrough, president and CEO of the chamber added, “We’re very excited about the opportunities and resources i-SPI will provide entrepreneurs in our community, and just as valuable will be the interaction among the businesses within the chamber and the members of the incubator.”

There is a great deal of economic and social activity going on in Springfield and Sangamon County. After the working day is done, residents and visitors can take part in one of the many entertainment opportunities. From art shows and concerts to a variety of community events or one of the region’s many recreational opportunities including golf or local parks, people come together and celebrate all that the area has to offer.

The growth of the medical and healthcare industries will prove to be a benefit in years to come with the expansion of both area hospitals. This growth will be driven by specialized health services such as the Prairie Heart Institute, a nationally recognized leader in heart health, research and innovation.

Building on its momentum, the county is looking to the future. Food processing and agriculture technology are two sectors that are showing great promise and would be an excellent fit with the region’s resources, workforce and economy.

Visionary leadership, strategic decisions and strong partnerships are paramount to the economic success and community developments that are ongoing in Springfield and Sangamon County. ‘The Springfield Advantage’ brings together history, location, a business-friendly climate, local talent, a vibrant culture and a multitude of assets to cultivate an environment of growth and success.



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