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Wyandotte County Mayor Mark Holland On Jobs, Development And Challenges In KCK

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County

Since he was elected in 2013, Unified Government of Wyandotte County Mayor and CEO Mark Holland has been able to boast some impressive developments and job growth in the county.

Holland reiterated those successes in his State of the Government address Tuesday, making particular note of 4,000 new jobs created in 2014. He said that number represents about 30 percent of all new jobs in the state of Kansas.

Holland was a guest on Wednesday's Up to Date. Below are excerpts from his conversation with host Steve Kraske.

On continued growth in the Legends:

"In 1995, we only had a gas station, a liquor store and a Kentucky Fried Chicken and all the jobs and sales taxes that came with them. Fast forward to now, through the work of [former mayors] Carol Marinovich and Joe Reardon, the Legends brings in $17 million in property tax, $650 million in sales and has 9,000 employees. It's staggering."

On rumors that GM's Fairfax plant may cut production of the Buick Lacrosse:

"I haven't heard about it. It's news to me. General Motors has made nearly $2 billion in capital investments in that plant in the last 15 years. So I'd be surprised if they would vacate it. Obviously it would be devastating to our community if they did, but I don't think they're going to. I would anticipate with the new $600 million paint plant, they're going to [continue production]."

On the difficulty bringing a grocery store to downtown Kansas City, Kan.:

"We're still working on it. If it were easy, we would've built two by now. It's really a challenging environment and economic model. It takes a public-private partnership to get it done. We're actively working to finish the master plan for the healthy living campus. We slowed down that whole development to make sure we develop it right. So we have to make sure we have the right grocery store that's going to be sustainable for 20 or 30 years. 

"We have fewer people downtown, and we have a lower per-capita income. A lot of grocers want to go where there's more money. We've been needing a downtown grocery store for years."

On being part of a bi-state metropolitan area:

"When I look at the areas of our community that are near Johnson County, like Rosedale and the KU Med area, it's hard to tell when Wyandotte County ends and Johnson County begins. Particularly in the KU Med area, you have Wyandotte, Johnson and Jackson counties all in that one area. I don't know that the people who go to restaurants or to the hospital pay attention to it.  

"We need to look at [our borders] as a market, and it's a joint-market. If people need goods or services, they'll cross the line, and they should. People cross lines for jobs. It's a metropolitan area and people cross county lines almost on a daily basis."

On the future of the Environmental Protection Agency building in downtown KCK:

"It's a huge priority. We have 200,000 square feet of Class-A office. One of the challenges is that, because it was custom built for the EPA, it isn't easily subdividable like a traditional office building. One of the bigger challenges is that it's owned by a Real Estate Investment Trust team. They tend to work nationwide, and so you have people from out of town trying to work their portfolios and not trying to fill this building.

"We have a local management firm that's trying to fill it. Our Wyandotte Economic Development Council is constantly looking at leads to fill it. But the types of companies that could take that 200,000 square feet and fill it are few and far between."

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.