The City's Departments of Economic Vitality and Workforce Development are working together to streamline operations and enhance services available to regional job seekers and employers through operating grants reaching 58 counties.

City Council will hear a proposal Monday night to integrate the two departments to strengthen business relations with the goal of attracting new investments and talent to Springfield.

Currently, the City's Economic Vitality and Workforce Development departments operate independently with distinct objectives. However, recognizing the connection between workforce dynamics and economic prosperity, the combining of the departments allows for a comprehensive strategy that aligns labor market needs with economic development goals.

The Economic Vitality and Workforce Development departments have a uniquely integrated relationship, working closely to achieve the common goal of improving the job market in the City of Springfield and the surrounding areas. Combining the departments will reduce duplicative efforts, leading to more efficient resource allocation and resulting in cost savings.

According to Economic Vitality Director Amanda Ohlensehlen, this consolidation will help the City offer a higher level of service, increase staff capacity, and integrate with partner agencies and organizations to overcome challenges through a holistic approach. As proposed, there is no impact to the general fund, and it is anticipated that general fund savings will result over time. All current staff positions will be retained in the consolidation.

Workforce Development:

The City of Springfield has a nearly 50-year history of providing workforce services to the Ozark region, performing programmatic, administrative, and fiscal functions since the workforce system began in 1974.

The City's robust array high-quality workforce development programs are offered in collaboration with the Ozark Region Workforce Development Board, the Council of Local Elected Officials and many additional public and private partners.

Since 2021, the City has been awarded and has served as the lead entity for grants totalling over $24 million dollars.  This includes the following grants: Department of Commerce, U.S. Economic Development Administration, Good Jobs Challenge Grant, $17.5 million; Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA), Apprenticeship Building America Grant, $3 million; DOLETA Pathway Home 2 Grant, $3 million; US EPA, Job Training Grant, $200,000 and $500,000; and National Endowment of the Arts Challenge America, $10,000.

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"We are also proud of our collaboration with the Workforce Board to deliver roughly $2 million dollars in workforce services annually under the current public workforce system of WIOA (Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act)," said Interim Workforce Development Director Ericka Schmeeckle.

Outcomes To Date
  • Good Jobs Challenge (EDA): enrolled 1,684 participants in 58 counties; 745 of those are from the seven county Ozark Region.
  • Apprenticeship Building America Grant (DOLETA): enrolled 494 participants in a 10-county region.
  • Pathway to Home 2 Grant (DOLETA): enrolled 425 participants from prisons throughout the state all of whom were released back into the Ozark Region.
  • Green for Greene (EPA): enrolled 269 participants in the seven-county Ozark Region.

Economic Vitality:

In 2021, the Economic Vitality department was established as the primary department for professional, technical, and management responsibilities, activities, and initiatives related to economic development.  This department's primary objectives are to encourage reinvestment and quality economic growth, coordinate significant development projects that impact the community's tax base, retain and facilitate expansion of existing businesses, promote entrepreneurship, and attract new businesses by fostering a positive business environment.  Creating and retaining quality jobs to increase the local tax base and the overall quality of life for the citizens of Springfield is a major emphasis.

"The combination of Economic Vitality and Workforce Development initiatives will ensure that the City is meeting goals outlined in the City's Comprehensive Plan, Forward SGF, as well as interdependent council priorities to improve the quality of life for all citizens by creating a vibrant business community with well-paying jobs and a growing tax base to support government functions and access to critical supportive services," said Ohlensehlen.

City Manager Jason Gage says the strategic alignment will provide a wider range of services and help the City more efficiently market the City's assets to targeted audiences. It will help the City recruit talent to the community, provide a skilled and diverse workforce, support industries, promote sustainable growth, and forge stronger partnerships to leverage investment that contributes to the overall vitality of the region.

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"This consolidation of services will not only make us more efficient, but will allow us to better serve our residents," he explained.

The newly combined Economic Vitality and Workforce Development department proposes to operate with three divisions: Community & Economic Development, Grant Management, and Workforce Development. The City has not previously had a grant management division – an opportunity that could shore up additional funding for a variety of projects.

"Our primary goal in merging the Workforce Development and Economic Vitality Departments is to enhance collaboration, coordination, and efficiency in addressing the challenges and opportunities arising at the intersection of workforce and economic development," Schmeeckle said. "This integration will create a cohesive approach to addressing the challenges of fostering sustainable economic growth and supporting a skilled, educated, and diverse workforce to align closely with City Council priorities."

  • Cost savings from combining staff
  • Increased staff capacity and collaboration
  • Realize operational efficiencies
  • Greater internal controls over grant funding
  • Stronger community presence and improved value of City support to businesses
  • Ability to diversify City funding through additional grant opportunities
  • Better leverage of state and federal funding opportunities
  • Increased attraction to future businesses and retention/growth of existing industry sectors

The City is also pursuing a plan to acquire and renovate a building to allow for the relocation of Workforce Development services to an area near the City Governmental Plaza and more convenient for members of the public. The Missouri Job Center, which is currently located in leased space at 2900 E. Sunshine, includes partners who share in lease expenses. City Council heard a proposal to reallocate carryover funds to assist in purchasing the new building on May 20, 2024, which would allow the City to maximize the use of tax-exempt financing; Council will vote on the proposal Monday night. Bonds will be repaid using rental revenues provided by Workforce Development rental payments. Schmeeckle said a location in Zone 1 will best serve their clients by providing easier access to services.

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For more information, contact Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, at 417-380-3352 or
[email protected]. For more details about services offered, visit Department of Economic Vitality and Department of Workforce Development.

Filed Under: Government, City

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