Page 10 - BusinessWest April 28, 2021
P. 10

 Community Spotlight
Springfield Aims to Recapture Pre-COVID Vibrancy
By George O’Brien
The wording in the initial guidance
that has come down on the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan, and, more spe-
cifically, the $130.2 billion designated for city and county fiscal relief, is somewhat vague and leaves a lot to the imagination.
“Funds can be used to respond to the COVID- 19 public-health emergency and its negative eco- nomic impacts, including assistance to house- holds, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries, such as tourism, travel, and hospitality,” it reads, before going on to note that such funds may also be used for everything from investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure to “providing government services in a way that covers the revenue gaps created by the COVID-19 emergency.”
As he reads this guidance, Tim Sheehan, Springfield’s chief Economic Development offi- cer, draws immediate parallels to the federal money Springfield received nearly a decade ago in the wake of the June 1, 2011 tornado that tore through several parts of the city. Even the dollar amounts — roughly $100 million, in each case — are strikingly similar.
“Some of the outcomes resulting from the funding that came from the tornado assistance were transformative for Springfield,” he noted,
adding that a reconstruction fund of $96.7 mil- lion was put to a number of uses, including busi- ness assistance, housing replacement and recon- struction, infrastructure, and more. “And we’re looking to similarly deploy, very strategically, the resources we have from the rescue plan so that we have a similar result.”
How, and how effectively, Springfield can put its American Rescue Plan funds to work will likely play an important role when it comes to how quickly and profoundly the city can recover from a very different kind of disaster. And, like many area communities, Springfield has been hard
hit by the pandemic, with many question marks looming over the future.
A city that was in the midst of what many were calling a renaissance in the years leading up to COVID saw much of its momentum halted or certainly slowed by the pandemic. A central business district that was thriving and teeming with events, activity, and new businesses has been eerily quiet, with many constituencies — from office workers to hockey fans; beer garden attendees to concertgoers — absent or in far smaller numbers.
As for those office workers, there are now lin- gering questions about when they will return (the vast majority haven’t yet) and how many of them
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    10 APRIL 28, 2021
 Springfield at a glance
AREA: 33.1 square miles
COUNTY: Hampden
TYPE OF GOVERNMENT: Mayor, City Council
LARGEST EMPLOYERS: Baystate Health, MassMutual Financial Group, Big Y Foods, MGM Springfield, Mercy Medical Center, CHD, Smith & Wesson Inc.
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