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Reflecting on President Smart’s impact on IDEA Commons

Thankful for thoughtful, energetic leadership.

People throw around the word “visionary” a lot in our world. It encapsulates a leader who sees more than what is in front of him and isn’t limited by current rules or status quo.

And in the case of President Clifton M. Smart III, visionary is the perfect word. Being that IDEA Commons was in a formative stage when he took over the presidency, much of its success and growth are due to his incredible leadership. During his more than a decade as president of Missouri State University, the downtown district changed dramatically – from dilapidated areas to vibrant spaces.

He shepherded significant policy changes, facility rebirths and legislative priorities throughout his tenure. It’s not hyperbolic: He’s played a pivotal role in creating a vision that has shaped Missouri State, our community and state.

President Smart fostered partnerships on the local, regional, state and global levels. Smart assumed prominent roles in various civic organizations – like the Missouri Partnership Board, United Way of the Ozarks and many others – that built bridges between the university, community and the region. Through these positions, he embodied the pillars of the public affairs mission, and connected higher education to community engagement and improvement initiatives.

As President and in his service on the Springfield Innovation Inc. Board of Directors, Smart served a vital role in guiding the ongoing development of IDEA Commons, Missouri State’s urban innovation park in downtown Springfield. He played a key role in the expansion of both efactory and the Roy Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center.

Through his leadership and unwavering support, the once blighted industrial area of Springfield became a dynamic engine for economic development, and has connected employers, academics and students.

It was under his tenure that in January 2023, he expanded the scope of efactory. Through this expansion, we established a greater focus on our employer partnerships program and community connection, added all noncredit training from MSU and folded student employment services into our area. This was a huge vote of confidence: It was recognition that we specialize in developing talent and supporting businesses and employers.

This has been a gamechanger, and we think it will continue to positively impact the community and our region’s economic growth.

We wish him well in his retirement and sincerely want to say thank you for the leadership he’s provided at the helm of Missouri State University.