SPRINGFIELD — An executive summary of the FutureCity 2026 economic-development strategy was presented to about 120 business and community leaders and stakeholders at CityStage last week.
FutureCity is a joint initiative by DevelopSpringfield, the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the city of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development. Its purpose is to build on the strategies identified in earlier studies such at the Urban Land Institute study of 2006 and the Rebuild Springfield Plan of 2012 — both of which identified tangible goals that continue to be the focus of public and private economic-development strategy in Springfield. Both plans recommended the importance of developing a long-term strategy for economic growth in the city that would ultimately benefit the entire region.
“The goal of this project was to pinpoint and leverage the city’s attributes, including geographic location, infrastructure, workforce, and industries, and align these existing characteristics, assets, and conditions with pillars of realistic current and prospective market opportunities,” said Jeff Fialky, an attorney with Bacon Wilson and co-chair of the FutureCity initiative. “The objective was to develop an approach based upon realistic market opportunities that is obtainable rather than merely aspirational.”
The FutureCity strategy was prepared by the nationally recognized real-estate and economic-development consulting firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, guided by a steering committee representing a broad spectrum of businesses and organizations over the course of a nine-month period. The consultants were charged with an ambitious scope of work which took place over nine months to include the following: assess existing conditions, analyze target industries, assess logistics and supply-chain capabilities, assess talent-development strategies, develop a list of recruitment opportunities for target industries, and identify strategic initiatives and an implementation plan with measurable deliverables.
Newmark conducted over 100 interviews, which included city and state leaders, economic-development agencies, large employers, young professionals, elected officials, nonprofits, workforce-development organizations, real-estate and creative-economy experts, and more, in addition to deep dives into relevant data, peer-city comparisons, and several site visits to Springfield.
Major themes emerging from the study include site and space readiness, centralization of small-business resources, development of a multi-generational workforce plan, development of a unified marketing and messaging plan, fostering collaboration and connectivity, strategically unifying economic-development efforts, collaboration, and a focus on Springfield’s unique strengths.
“This was a very pragmatic exercise that shows there are many more pros than cons as we continue to market Springfield,” said Mayor Domenic Sarno. “As we have done with the Urban Land Institute and our Rebuild Springfield plans, we will follow through with this one, too. Now is our time. We will continue to capitalize on the synergy of our public and private collaborations and keep the momentum going as the ‘can-do city.’”
Added Jay Minkarah, DevelopSpringfield president and CEO and co-chair of the FutureCity initiative, “the FutureCity economic-development strategy is designed to be a guide to action, not simply a plan to sit on a shelf. The plan includes over 170 specific recommendations along with metrics for measuring success, estimated costs, potential impact, and priorities, and identifies the parties responsible for implementation.”
Funding was provided by the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the U.S. Economic Development Agency, the Springfield Regional Chamber, Smith and Wesson, and DevelopSpringfield.
A link to the presentation can be found at www.developspringfield.com. Over the next few weeks, an executive summary and detailed report will be made available through DevelopSpringfield, the Springfield Regional Chamber, and the city of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development.