Each chapter of the 2017 Community Focus Report has its own distinctive blue ribbons and red flags to identify the community's strengths and issues.
As committee leaders worked through this months-long process and shared findings, the group kept returning to common community themes: a strong economy and business community working to combat persistent poverty, creative problem-solving among government agencies and nonprofits managing limited resources, and collaborative leaders willing to confront persistent challenges together.
Overall, committee leaders felt optimistic about this year's Community Focus Report, despite an era of lean resources. Several benchmarks showed improvement, but the community still has much work ahead to confront the interwoven spiral of unshakable issues.
For years, the Springfield/Greene County community has kept close tabs on major health issues facing the region. But agencies have yet to do a comprehensive assessment of the state of mental health in the region. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department has secured the funding for such a comprehensive needs assessment, which will occur in the near future.
Unidentified or untreated mental-health issues can contribute many red flags identified in this report: reduced physical-health outcomes; the rise in drug abuse and addiction; the consistent problem of child neglect and abuse tied to addiction; the difficulty for some community members to be able to maintain a job and pay for adequate housing. Such issues can also be precursors to crime.
Poverty lingers stubbornly as a community issue. Income levels in the region are not keeping up with the cost of living, and the issues surrounding those in persistent poverty remain a challenge. But area agencies are working together to address the problem on all fronts.
For the past decade, these reports have highlighted the ability of the community's nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies to collaborate to tackle issues facing the Springfield/Greene County area. As these efforts continue, those working together must make difficult decisions about where to focus declining resources most efficiently.
Sustainable funding for community needs
A tighter state budget means fewer resources available for nonprofit initiatives tackling complex community issues, especially since those organizations are often competing in an increasingly crowded landscape for foundation support as well. Schools are also facing leaner times, which can threaten workforce training programs.
Sustainable funding is a consistent issue for initiatives to tackle challenges and benefit the community. What are the best sources of consistent funding? Where will the donor base focus its resources in the years ahead?
The Springfield area continues to be an appealing market for prospective employers. In the coming years, though, the community will face some decisions about significant investment for utility, environmental, and wastewater programs. Continued support of infrastructure will be a requirement for businesses looking to locate in the area.
Area taxpayers have repeatedly agreed to invest in the community, but over the next few years, the Springfield/Greene County region will have to set infrastructure priorities as government agencies and nonprofit organizations ask for support from a public reluctant to increase its tax base much further.
Interest in running for office has been declining, and voter participation in non-presidential elections continues to dip. The number of agencies tackling a host of issues also slices the donation base into smaller pieces. Though area residents have proved their generosity over and over, organizations must find new ways to engage the public in tackling community issues.
COMMUNITY AT A GLANCE
|Greene County Total||283,206|
FAMILIES IN POVERTY
|Household with children under 18||35%||31.9%||3.1%|
|Household with children under 18||24.8%||24.4%||.4%|
COST OF LIVING
|Owner-occupied housing value||$107,600||$129,400|
|LEVEL COMPLETED||SPRINGFIELD||GREENE COUNTY|
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-2015 American Community Survey; U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 American Community Survey; Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Second quarter 2017