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Economic Development Driving Turnaround In South Kansas City

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Representatives from Cerner, Burns & McDonnell, Red Bridge Shopping Center, Three Trails Industrial Park and Legacy Development discuss economic development at the South Kansas City Alliance Economic Development Summit.

Residents of South Kansas City heard updates on a variety of commercial projects at an economic development summit sponsored by the neighborhood alliance Saturday.

“It’s easy access,” said Ron Coker, a senior vice president at Burns & McDonnell, which just completed an expansion at 9450 Ward Parkway that will house 1,400 engineers, architects and construction specialists.

“If your business requires mobility, it’s a great, central location," Coker added, noting that much of the Burns & McDonnell workforce is spread across the city.

Coker said South Kansas City has an opportunity to become a technology gateway.

“We would love for all of those young engineers to live and play right around our offices in South Kansas City,” he says. “One of the challenges that the city has is, we have to get attractions that make it (South Kansas City) a viable, attractive opportunity.”

Dave Claflin of Legacy Development says bringing more services and amenities to South Kansas City is a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation.

“The millennials and younger workers don’t want to come in until the stores, the coffee shops, the restaurants are here, yet those kind of stores and restaurants are unlikely to be here unless they see demographic evidence that those customers exist,” Claflin said.

Legacy Development manages the Ward Parkway Shopping Center and just completed a renovation of Truman’s Marketplace in nearby Grandview.

“I think one of the most critical functions is tax revenue,” Claflin said. “If you don’t have the shopping inside your taxing boundaries, those tax dollars are going to other municipalities.”

Claflin said one benefit of South Kansas City is its particularly active neighborhood association.

Sixth District At-Large Councilman Scott Taylor said South Kansas City still offers affordable housing and neighborhood schools through the Center School District.

“The number – thousands – of new jobs that have been created in South Kansas City is great because that creates a level of certainty and investment, potentially more people moving into our neighborhoods that have been on the market for a little bit,” Taylor said.

Taylor added that Center has kept class sizes small at a time when many schools just across the state line in Johnson County, Kansas, have faced funding cuts.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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