I was in Springfield and Branson, MO this past week at a NAIOP event and got a chance to tour both towns. I was impressed in each town with how local entrepreneurs have transformed those towns.
It seemed like everywhere I looked in Springfield, MO (population 139,600) you saw something that John Q. Hammons had touched from a new minor league baseball field, to hotels, to visual and performing arts centers. John Q. was a school teacher who worked in construction in the summer months. He started building hotels and has built his publicly traded company over the years into sixty some hotels, mainly in the Midwest. He has donated tens of millions of dollars to projects in Springfield.
Other local entrepreneurs who have improved the local community are: Johnny Morris (Bass Pro), Jack Stack (Springfield Manufacturing and The Great Game of Business books) and many others. Morris started Bass Pro as a college student, selling fishing lures in his father’s liquor stores. Stack bought a near bankrupt subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company and instilled a team concept to the business.
If you’ve never been to a Bass Pro Shop, you need to go. They are often the number one tourist attraction in many states and the Springfield, MO headquarters store is the larges of them all. It covers over 350,000 sf and includes restaurants, barbershop, art gallery, indoor archery range and numerous fishing tanks. Their spring Fishing Classic and fall Hunting Classic weekends bring in over 150,000 tourists to the town each year. The adjacent American National Fish & Wildlife Museum was built at a cost of $30 million.
“Springfield is going through a loft craze in our downtown area” local real estate developer Tom Rankin pointed out in our tour. While, Springfield is much larger than most agurbs® I visit, you could tell that it was a city on the move. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the state.
The entrepreneurs of Springfield in cooperation with city government are making Springfield a very attractive location for companies and individuals to relocate to. I’ve often said that you can’t have enough entrepreneurs in your town and Springfield is a great example of what can happen.