Ryan McCrady takes the helm of the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance

By Carey Smith

Though much of the world is currently on pause, the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance (SSGA) continues to work to help businesses navigate through challenges presented by the pandemic.  In addition to getting up to speed as the newly-hired president of SSGA, Ryan McCrady’s goals include supporting local businesses as well as advocating for any and all resources available to the business world.

McCrady’s first day on the job was May 11, although his hiring was announced on March 12, following a nationwide search by the SSGA board of directors. At the time, board chair Dan Dungan said, “Many of our board members are already familiar with the success Ryan has demonstrated in both Sangamon County and Macon County. We have confidence that he can successfully implement our mission to enhance economic prosperity and growth for Springfield and Sangamon County.”

A native of Divernon, McCrady was the Sangamon County administrator for a dozen years, following that with a seven-year stint as the city manager of Decatur and then another five years as the president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County.  He has worked with global companies such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Caterpillar, and also worked to develop the Midwest Inland Port, a multi-modal transportation hub in Decatur, providing access for Midwestern products to markets on the East, West and Gulf Coasts.

One of the SSGA’s main roles is to connect resources to needs.  Many smaller or mid-sized businesses may not have the time to research and track down answers, but the SSGA can help.  For new businesses interested in moving to the area, SSGA functions as a concierge, as McCrady explains, “making the onboarding and transition process easy for a business.”  Sometimes it’s a simple matter of figuring out utilities or zoning, or supporting employee training, but whatever the issue, McCrady and the SSGA have relationships throughout the community to solve problems and meet needs.

McCrady points out that Springfield has many qualities attractive to businesses, including 98 million consumers within a day’s drive, more than are available to businesses located in either Chicago or St. Louis.  Modern infrastructure, including multiple Class 1 railways and two toll-free interstates, provide a way for products to reach these consumers.  A potential workforce of a half million people lives within a 45-minute drive, many of whom are willing to commute that distance because of the congestion-free highways leading to Springfield.

Though the SSGA’s recent proposal to create a downtown university presence was met with backlash from some downtown business owners and members of the community, McCrady says that there is still a lot of interest in the concept. The exact location has not been finalized, and McCrady and the SSGA will work closely with stakeholders to find the best possible placement and avenue of advancement for the project.  He notes that in cities where universities have been located in downtown areas, this has proved a significant benefit.

McCrady also hopes to have a close working relationship with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and says he’s pleased to have already spoken with Chris Hembrough, the Chamber president. While the Chamber focuses more on member issues, such as education and workforce training, and the SSGA is focused more on economic development, the aims of the two groups are the same:  to attract and retain businesses in Springfield and Sangamon County.

McCrady and his wife, Jenna, have three children: Clifton, who is a freshman in high school; Alison, who is a freshman in college; and Alex, who has already embarked on his adult life.  The McCrady family is actively planning their transition back to the Springfield area, where Ryan and Jenna’s parents both live.