County strategic update features Big 4 projects

Clay County Economic Development Council Chair Greg Canuteson outlined four projects in the county strategic plan update this winter. The group of projects includes expansion of the KC Tech Academy in Liberty.

A major update of the Clay County Strategic Initiative unveiled a dramatic vision for the area through 2023.

Presented by Clay County Economic Development Council Chair Elect Greg Canuteson at the Keystone Awards Breakfast, the plan features four initiatives to build on Clay County strengths and support strategic development.

The heart of the plan calls for a “Big 4” group of projects to position the area to capitalize on area and national trends already impacting business and industry: expansion of the KC Tech Academy in Liberty, a “587” project for high quality development surrounding Interstate 435 and Missouri Highway 152, expansion of the University of Missouri Center for Excellence in Orthopedics at Liberty Hospital and creation of another 50 new businesses and 5,000 jobs, doubling growth targeted in the original, 2013 Strategic Imitative.

“None of these projects will be easy,” Canuteson said. “But with everyone’s help, they can become a reality that will make Clay County a better place for all of us.”

Addressing the audience of more than 200 people at Harrah’s North Kansas City, Canuteson said like the 2013 plan, this year’s update followed nearly a year of community meetings, dialogue with industry leaders and examination of information from national studies and local trends. The effort emphasizes Clay County’s current leading industries, IT/advanced technology, advanced manufacturing and health care as well as regionally dynamic fields like animal and bioscience, higher education and technology transfer.

Building on strengths

Two of the Big Four involve nurturing expansion of existing developments: the KC Tech Academy and the MU Center for Excellence in Orthopedics.

Located in Liberty’s Heartland Meadows business park, the KC Tech Academy is considered the most effective advanced manufacturing skilled trade solution in the nation, Canuteson said. The Big Four plan would target construction of a new center on undeveloped acreage in the business park, with the goal of creating one of the nation’s top training centers.

“It would provide Clay County with the training to attract one of the fastest growing sectors in the nation, and it would send a message to businesses around the country that we can provide the workforce to fill their needs,” Canuteson said.

The University of Missouri Academic Center of Excellence would also build on an existing development, the recent partnership between Liberty Hospital and the University of Missouri that created the MU Orthopedics at Liberty Hospital. The Big Four project would expand that as part of an effort to develop a treatment research facility for Missouri’s flagship university in western Missouri.

Blank canvas

The most dramatic element of the Big Four involves development of vacant land at one of Greater Kansas City’s most strategic locations, I-435 and Highway 152. Christened the “587 Project” by adding the two highway numbers, the effort would launch market and land-use studies to help develop the largely vacant three corners of the interchange.

The final Big Four component is a repeat from the original, 2013 initiative: bringing 50 new companies and developing 5,000 new jobs by 2023. Canuteson said the current plan’s success is proven by the results from the original effort.

“We had that as a five-year goal in 2013,” he said. “We blew through those numbers in just three years. We can do it again.”

Canuteson challenged leaders from throughout Clay County to support this effort.

“These projects will be challenging, but we’ve shown in the past that we can succeed when we work together,” he concluded.

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