Oct. 10, 2019
Several hundred interested citizens attended the release of the 2019 Community Focus Report for Springfield-Greene County, held Oct. 10 at the Springfield Art Museum. They heard an unvarnished assessment of the red flags within our community, but also stories of determination, resilience and the hard work that underscore the blue ribbons we can celebrate. Many thanks to the other co-sponsors and funders: Junior League of Springfield, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of the Ozarks and Springfield-Greene County Library District.
Prepared by Dr. Jonathan Groves, project facilitator
Springfield and Greene County remain vibrant places to live and thrive, with generous neighbors, strong businesses, and attractive cultural and natural resources. But the region faces growing needs and persistent challenges, and in the coming years, will have to stretch finite resources across many sectors. Over the next decade, we will need to coordinate how we invest our social and financial capital to ensure the community’s needs are met as effectively and efficiently as possible.
- Community mental health: For the first time, a consortium conducted a full mental-health assessment of community resources and outcomes in the area. The challenge is reducing the stigma related to diagnoses and encouraging people to seek help.
- Cooperation: Collaboration has long been a community strength, but the collaborative ideas must now move beyond conversation and planning to consistent collective action, especially with more than $1.6 billion in infrastructure needs identified over the next 20 years.
- Diversity: There is a growing recognition of the need to represent diverse perspectives across multiple dimensions — race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, those with disabilities — as the region has grown more diverse since the 2004 Community Focus report.
- Economic opportunity: Springfield has long been a region of economic opportunity, with low unemployment and a dynamic business community. But our historic engine of growth is slowing as the population growth rate slows.
- Poverty and homelessness: Nearly one in five households in Greene County with children under 18 (19.4%) meet the federal definition of poverty, and homelessness is increasing. The number of children and youth falling in the federal definition of homelessness within Springfield Public Schools hit 2,283 in 2018.
- Social capital: Local citizen participation through traditional measures of voter engagement and volunteering have experienced declines. The community will need to develop ways to measure nontraditional ways of giving and contributing, such as individual fundraising appeals through social media.
Key Blue Ribbons
- Proposition S, passed by Springfield voters in 2019, will mean $168 million in investment in resources for our children to help improve in educational outcomes at all levels.
- Major redevelopment has expanded beyond the downtown core to other areas of the city, including Commercial Street and Galloway Village.
- A community of entrepreneurs and artists is thriving, with the arts alone generating more than $28 million in revenue annually.
- We have maintained a commitment to the natural environment, one of our prime area strengths, with investments in trails and parks and reduced air emissions from our local power plants.
- The area’s unemployment rate remains below state and national averages.
Key Red Flags
- The population growth rate has slowed, which has long-term implications for economic development.
- Poverty has worsened since 2004, the year of the first Community Focus Report. About 19.4% of households with children under 18 in Greene County meet the federal definition of poverty (up four percentage points from 2005). Median annual wages (2017) in Springfield ($34,775) and Greene County ($43,175) remain below Jackson County ($50,652), St. Louis County ($62,931), and the national median ($57,652).
- Housing costs have continued to increase. More than 50% of renters and 29% of homeowners in Greene County are considered “cost-burdened households” that spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
- Significant achievement gaps exist in our education system, before and after kindergarten. There are gaps in kindergarten readiness, college readiness, and graduation rates between students of color and white students, as well as among students of different income levels.
- Voter participation has dropped. In the April 2019 election, 174,491 Greene County residents (75% of those eligible) were registered to vote, and of those registered and considered active, only 17.3% turned out to choose members for their local city councils, boards of aldermen, and school boards or vote on major municipal and school tax/bond issues.
Download the Report (PDF)