Economic Policy in Downtown Development Essay

This essay has a total of 2106 words and 10 pages.

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. Those points are as
follows:

1.Identify objectives
2.Identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives
3.Predict the possible consequences of each alternative
4.Evaluate the possible consequences of each alternative
5.Select the alternative that maximizes the attainment of objectives
Now assuming the City Council used these elements to determine zoning permits, tax breaks,
funding and overall implementation of the Center City project, one can break the move for
growth in the downtown area down by each step.

1. The objectives for Center City are obvious. The City's government saw a need and
opportunity for huge economic growth and took advantage of the eager entrepreneurs to
develop and build new buildings and projects. Springfield being the third largest city in
the state of Missouri, put an emphasis for greater job opportunities, non-quantitative
benefits such as entertainment, overall satisfaction for all the patrons of Springfield
and a more prestigious standing amongst Missourians and the nation as one of the major
topic's for its agenda. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Greene
County area ranked 21st of 315 urban counties for job growth and No. 15 among medium-
sized metro areas in the country for doing business.

2. Alternative courses of action, could have been to simply do nothing. Or possibly
re-zone areas of commerce for residential areas. The gamble could go either way, but the
city chose to develop the area commercially and then give developers and residents options
to choose from. Several of these options were developing a program to encourage realtors
and lenders to target low-income housing or creating a public/private entity to acquire
land for new construction of affordable housing have been considered and although may not
make it into the cities 5 year plan, will be looked at further down the road.

3.Predicting the possible consequences have been considered by Tom Carlson and the rest of
the city council and have been a major topic of review. First, would be the city's support
of the project. With all the new development in progress, the issue of filling all the new
vacancies came up. With production already under way for projects such as "College
Station" and the Heer's Tower, developers were concerned with business's filling the voids
and pursuing a successful business. According to Tom Finnie, coordination of all the civic
groups has been an issue. "We [City Council] have been experiencing the same problems
every group effort has. The limited resources, of course... The biggest issue is
marketing." Limited resources are always an issue when it comes to implementing any public
policy and it is a major concern for the projects at hand.

4. After the city pointed out possible problems, the a Cost Benefit Analysis had to be
looked at. Are the risks of developing the area in question, without having adequate
business's already vouching for the spaces available, worth the gamble of millions of
dollars of investments and tax dollars? The City Council and developing firms involved are
seeking the support of the tax payers and local universities such as SMSU. According to
Jim Baker, assistant to SMSU former President John Keiser, not all the money will come
from the tax payers pockets. "In Phase I of the Jordan Valley Innovation Center, U.S.
Representative Roy Blunt has secured the funding required. Once Phase II is done, the JVIC
will create high-paying jobs and could spur new business around it....the different
projects downtown will play roles in creating enough critical mass for change."

5. Finally, would be the city's decision to go ahead with the development and take the big
risk. Jefferson City Developer Vaughn Prost, used the broken window theory, popularized in
the early 80's by The Atlantic Monthly magazine to describe Springfield's downtown. He
says "that when the buildings are fixed and begin to "work" again, they will generate tax
revenue and bring jobs into the surrounding area, effecting all areas of urban
development."

Understanding Stone's key points are just one way to look at the policy and work that has
gone into the decision to develop the Center City. Some of the projects that have already
mentioned are the Heer's Tower and the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. These are just a
few of the developments currently underway, many more are in the works.
Continues for 5 more pages >>




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