The Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance reports that it has helped facilitate more than $1.6 billion in economic development opportunities coming to the region over the next several years. The organization seeks to advance economic development and partnership opportunities across the region.

The SSGA engaged with local business leaders last year through about 100 business retention and expansion visits, more than 25 community presentations and attending 15 business development-related conferences. It also hosted a number of events, according to the organization's 2023 Year in Review report.

Created in 2018, the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance's mission is to pursue economic prosperity and growth for Sangamon County and Springfield by creating a financially sound community that can attract new businesses and skilled talent while retaining the profitable companies and local workforce.

Ryan McCrady, a Sangamon County native who joined the organization as SSGA's president and CEO in 2020, stated the organization made strides recently with advocating and supporting projects such as the Scheels Sports Park, Double Black Diamond Solar, redevelopment of the former Pillsbury Mills site, Innovate Springfield, History Reborn documentary, Breeze Airways' new flights and the Downtown Springfield/Mid Illinois Medical District Master Plan.

He cited the most memorable experience of the past year as the Scheels Sports Park groundbreaking. "The spirit of the community was alive and well at that event," he said.

"It is challenging that many of our projects take multiple years to completion," McCrady stated. "Therefore, we face the challenge of keeping a positive mindset in the community while we anxiously wait to see the results. However, it is very rewarding when we see our persistence and patience pay off with a groundbreaking of a new development or the ribbon cutting at a new business."

In addition to recruiting new companies, McCrady believes it is important to support current businesses and find ways to help them expand. "It is the best way to grow our economy. Attracting new business is also important, but we have to be able to create a business climate that encourages our current businesses to stay here," he said.

SSGA offers concierge-level service to businesses to assist them with their needs. "This reduces the time they have to spend making multiple inquiries and searches for resources and assistance," said McCrady. "This applies to current businesses and ones we work to attract to the community.

"The best way to support the community is through positive self-talk and interaction," McCrady added. "The Thrive In SPI campaign is a tool we use to create pride in our community. We also use it to attract new businesses and residents. Sharing that information and the social media traffic is a huge help to our efforts to grow the economy of Sangamon County."

Also thriving is the Thrive Ally Program, targeting those who are considering a move to the Springfield area or already arrived, to learn and hear directly from those who live, work and play here. Among those advocates for the area who serve as allies are Tom Frost and Julie Davis.

"I have always believed that Springfield and Sangamon County are a great place to live, work and raise a family," Frost said. "Our community offers so much more in addition to the world-class medical care, performing arts, sports, recreation, concerts, dining, etc. In working with many families who relocate here for employment purposes, I'm already talking up the benefits of our community. I've worked in the community for many years, and am grateful for all the families and businesses on the commercial real estate side that have entrusted me with aiding them in buying, selling and managing. I got involved with the SSGA Ally program as a means of giving back to the community. I hear many times how 'awful' it is to be in Springfield and Sangamon County. I joined to promote the vibrancy of the community and tell positive stories."

"I believe everyone should give back to their community in some way, and the best volunteer opportunities lie in areas where a person has passion or expertise," said Davis. "For me, SSGA meets that criteria. The Springfield area is a great place to live. We have many of the amenities of a large, culturally diverse city. Yet we're small enough that folks have access to those amenities. We have something for everyone of every age. The people are welcoming and generous, making it easy to make friends. The housing market is far more stable than in most parts of the county. And I think there is no better place to raise kids. Being an ambassador for SSGA gives me the opportunity to share the Springfield I love."

"By working to grow the economy," said McCrady, "we provide career opportunities for our citizens. We also market the community to our residents to help make them aware of the many amenities that are available to them. We support the efforts of other organizations that help improve the quality of life for our residents."

Janet Seitz is a local communications professional, writer and artist. To share your story, contact her at [email protected].

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