An economic renaissance is on the horizon for south Kansas City.
That was the message behind the South Kansas City Alliance’s first Economic Development Summit held Saturday morning at Avila University. It featured presentations on the latest major developments coming to the area, speeches by community leaders, and workshops.
The free event attracted more than 200 residents.
“So much growth is occurring in south Kansas City, it’s important for people to be aware of everything happening so they could share in the excitement,” said Councilman John Sharp, a member of the alliance. “In the past two to three years, things have completely changed.”
Presentations about major developments coming to the area kicked off the morning.
One of the biggest projects is the expansion of Cerner Corporation in the former Bannister Mall location, which will bring anywhere from 14,000 to 16,000 new jobs in the next decade.
The global health care company plans to make an $8 million investment back into the south Kansas City community, said Wendy Hill, its representative. It will put $6 million toward STEM education in the Hickman Mills School District and $2 million into the neighborhoods.
One of the smaller scale projects presented was the redevelopment of the former Kmart site near Bannister and Hillcrest, which will feature a CubeSmart storage facility, as well as retail and restaurants.
“There will also be a significant amount of landscaping,” said Mark Bryant, an attorney for the developer. “It will be a vast improvement over the sea of concrete people have gotten used to over the years.”
Other projects, such as the expansion of Burns & McDonnell and the creation of NorthPoint’s Three Trails Industrial Park are also anticipated to bring thousands of jobs to the community.
“This is groundbreaking — we’ve been waiting so long for something major to happen in south Kansas City and now it’s happening,” Councilman Michael Brooks told the audience, after the presentations. “Thousands of jobs are coming and millions of dollars are being invested into our schools and neighborhoods. Now we need to work on ways to keep those new employees here in the area.”
Officials from City Hall pointed out that in order to keep the momentum going, there needed to be some major changes.
Cindy Circo, the mayor pro tem, suggested Kansas City should now focus on replacing aging infrastructure, collaborating more with the community and fueling entrepreneurial spirit.
Mayor Sly James told attendees that he believed tax incentives and private-public partnerships are vital to bringing more major development to the area.
And with those huge projects, he emphasized, smaller development will also appear, such as restaurants, stores, and housing.
“In the next 10 years, we’re looking at 20,000 more jobs,” James told the audience. “So we’re looking at new people to the area who will be buying houses and wanting to go eat dinner and get their cars fixed and even buy a pack of gum. Those are the types of things that are going to come with these investments.”
South Kansas City’s economic boost is helping to put the entire city on the map, he added.
News of the major developments is spreading across the nation and the city as a whole is already drawing a wave of millennials eager to enter its growing workforce.
The mayor’s enthusiasm was echoed throughout the entire summit.
“Community leaders in south Kansas City are tremendously optimistic about what the next 10 years will bring,” said Sharp, who represents the 6th District. “I’m looking forward to watching the progress.”
Attendees were also caught up in the excitement.
Tameka Bryant, an investor from Lee’s Summit, attended the summit to learn more about the major developments coming to the area.
Like many others, she’s thrilled to see the once-dormant area come to life.
After all, she said, the resurrection was needed.
“I used to live in this area too, so south Kansas City is near and dear to my heart,” Bryant said. “I thought the speakers and presentations were very informative. It was great to have so many city leaders together, talking about the same cause.”