Clay County leaders viewed a wide range of developments at the 2012 State of the City Luncheon in April. Highlights included a predicted wave of support businesses from the $1.1 billion Ford investment and signs of significant economic activity in retail and other manufacturing. Sponsored by the Clay County Economic Development Council, the event was held at Harrah’s North Kansas City with representatives of Clay County, Excelsior Springs, Gladstone, Kansas City, Kearney, Liberty, North Kansas City and Smithville.
Clay County Presiding Commissioner Pam Mason led off the reports. She noted increased effort in economic development, included formation of a marketing task force to examine methods to continue the successes that saw announcement of a $1.1 billion investment by Ford Motor Company in the Claycomo Plant.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be announcing more this year,” she says. “We’ve had $121 million in investments so far this year in Clay County, and the pipeline is full.”
Smithville Mayor Brian Bulmer noted projects there include new restaurants and a winery. Among the most notable is the school district’s new performing arts center and gymnasium, the latter built to double as a tornado shelter.
“Our Chamber of Commerce should also be noted,” he added. “They have 180 members and, for a city of this size, that’s really amazing.” North Kansas City Development Director Jeff Samborski may have had the longest list of projects. The city, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, continues to see a large number of businesses locate or expand, including many taking advantage of the city’s high-speed fiber optic network. The city also continues to work on development of a 58-acre site along I-35, which planners hope will see an approximately $100-million multi-use project to exploit the 130,000 cars that pass daily
on nearby I-35.
Kearney Mayor Bill Dane says that this city grew by 65 percent over the past decade, and continues to aggressively pursue residential growth with steps such as the elimination of building permits.
Along with several new businesses in Kearney, a recently approved plan calls for 43 single-family lots. The most dramatic proposal may be a $40 million center planned for the southeast corner of I-35 and Highway 92.
Councilman Ed Ford outlined a wide range of developments in Kansas City. Major retail development is set along Highway 152 in Shoal Creek, and the 15,000-acre “First and Second Creek” areas will ultimately bring up to 30,000 people near Highways 169 and 291. Other projects include everything from Maple Woods Parkway to a 100- acre park near Woodland and Shoal Creek.
“We think every city in the Northland will benefit.”
The Kansas City councilman also noted the Ford investment and says cities throughout the area are seeing support businesses looking to locate into the area. “We have already seen businesses approach us as a result of this and I know Liberty has too,” Ford says.
Liberty Mayor Greg Canuteson says his city’s aggressive economic development includes creation of the Northland’s science and Technology Park to a new $250 million Ford stamping plant.
“We think it is just the beginning,” Canuteson says, also citing after-market suppliers for the new Transit van that will be built at the expanded Claycomo plant. “We think every city in the Northland will benefit.” Other Liberty plans include the recently announced Pryor Learning Commons on the William Jewell campus.
Gladstone Councilman Brian Hill noted his community’s “downtown” development includes creation of Linden Square west of city hall. That area will soon feature a village center, with year-round ice skating and a three-story office complex.
Along with an amphitheatre, the city is working to attract a destination restaurant and coffee shop. Excelsior Springs Planning Director Nick Pappas cited several major expansions by manufacturing companies in his city, which have increased the community’s job base. The most dramatic work may be downtown, however, where the $29 million in development and redevelopment is underway, including the $19 million Elm’s Hotel renovation.
“It’s actually hard to find a vacant storefront downtown,” he says. “And that’s a good thing!” NL