Blue Springs, Mo. – In 2006 the City of Blue Springs and Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation embarked on a new economic development strategy for the community. The goal was to recruit start-up, expanding, or relocating companies with specific business plans tied to industry clusters in the science technology and research sectors, including animal health, through fostering collaborative opportunities with university based research and education strengths.
In 2008, the City’s ambitious economic development strategy got a boost with an announcement involving the University of Missouri, Columbia. A partnership realized by way of a Memorandum of Understanding was formally executed in December 2008 and focused on the future development of the Missouri Innovation Park located in Blue Springs with MU as a key tenant in the park.
The long-term plan was the development of physical assets in Blue Springs that could leverage MU’s strengths in many discipline’s and align intellectual property and research with new private sector opportunities emerging in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The Mizzou Center, which opened in May 2010, was envisioned as a facility that would enable the university to generate increased scientific collaboration in the region. The City of Blue Springs continued to work on the Innovation Park which included the acquisition of property, development of infrastructure, retention of a developer, preliminary design for a 60,000-square-foot signature building, developing the conceptual master plan and business recruitment.
After four years of operating in Blue Springs, MU recently announced the University would be realigning its programming with its strategic plan to better serve Jackson County and the greater Kansas City area; eliminating their physical presence in the Innovation Park by September 30, 2014.
“While disappointed in this new realignment strategy, we certainly understand the dynamics and forces at play in today’s changing market place. We have had a good collaboration since 2008 yet understand things can change very quickly in the world of economic development and higher education,” said Mayor Carson Ross. “Companies are constantly looking at ways to collaborate with new partners; our experience has shown that doesn’t always translate into larger physical assets. Re-tooling our economic development goals for the Innovation Park and engaging new partners will strengthen our strategy going forward.”
“We are certainly optimistic that the work undertaken over the past few years has created an environment for future success and we are prepared to continue to execute our vision for the Innovation Park,” said Mayor Carson Ross.
“While we remain at the early stages of a longer term recovery, all indications and recent reports point to new capital investment and job growth as steadily improving in the Kansas City metro area. These various economic indicators along with new local development opportunities not present in Blue Springs four years ago reinforces that now is the time to refocus and redefine the development strategy of the Missouri Innovation Park,” said Brien Starner, President of the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation. “This approach will help Blue Springs leverage the regional and national recovery process, while creating a sustainable culture for local employer investment and business expansion within the Innovation Park.”
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Mizzou Statement Regarding Eastern Jackson County
COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri officials announced today that they would extend the lease for the Mizzou Center, currently housed in the Heartland Building in Blue Springs, Mo., for six months to Sept. 30, 2014. The lease extension will allow time for transition as the university aligns its programming with its strategic plan to better serve Jackson County and the greater Kansas City area. Mizzou Center faculty and staff associated with MU Extension will relocate to nearby MU Extension locations within Jackson County. This realignment will allow key services at the Mizzou Center to continue, but will consolidate and streamline operations.
“We are very committed to enhancing our presence in the Kansas City area, but many changes have taken place in the five years since we established the Mizzou Center when we entered into a collaboration with the city of Blue Springs’ innovation park,” former MU Provost Brian Foster said. “Technology has changed the way we deliver our services, the economy has continued to challenge us financially, and some traditional funding sources have become less dependable. In accordance with our statewide mission, Mizzou is very committed to the greater Kansas City area. We will continue to focus on the people we serve and remain good stewards of the state’s resources. We have had a very positive relationship with the City of Blue Springs during these past few years and are grateful for the partnership and support we have received from the mayor, city council, city staff and the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation. Even though our realignment alters MU’s approach with the innovation park, we believe that Blue Springs is well positioned for long term success. ”
“MU will continue to enhance our online and distance education, collaborations with businesses, and support of Kansas City economic development organizations. Training top talent and developing innovations is core to our statewide mission,” MU Vice Provost Steve Wyatt said. “Our Kansas City-area commitment is as strong as ever, but MU is adapting our engagement to better serve the needs of the region. MU is engaged in multiple collaborations using innovative methods to serve, including being a part of the Animal Health Corridor, which is the geographical area between Columbia and Manhattan, Kan., where the largest concentration of animal health interests in the world.”
Currently, MU has nearly 30 articulation agreements with Metropolitan Community College and academic collaborations with the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Additionally, a large proportion of MU students continue to come from the Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit school districts. The Missouri College Advising Core, a program headquartered at MU that works to help at-risk students apply for and attend college, is located in 11 high schools in the area. MU also is actively involved in the oversight of four charter schools in Kansas City.
In addition, the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center assisted companies in obtaining 75 government contract awards totaling more than $36 million, which translates into more than 700 local jobs created or retained. The University Extension Trade Adjustment Assistance Center managed contracts totaling $1.5 million and implemented 73 improvement projects to 35 companies in 2012.
MU Extension recently opened a new downtown office in the Kansas City River Market and is considering a new location in Eastern Jackson County to better meet the needs of residents.
“MU Extension is looking forward to working with the Extension Council of Jackson County to select and transition to a new office location,” said Michael Ouart, vice chancellor for extension at MU. “Our commitment to eastern Jackson County and the greater Kansas City area will continue as we look for new ways to provide programming that meets the needs of residents living in the state’s urban areas.”
Ouart said that, aside from a transition to a new location, residents in Jackson County will not experience a change in MU Extension faculty, staff or programming. MU Extension plans to maintain a presence in eastern Jackson County as well as in Kansas City’s River Market area.