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Regional Cooperation Explored for Economic Development

June 2017

Local and regional leaders gathered recently in Clay County to discuss ways to improve communications, develop leaders and business involvement for longterm improvement.

A group from throughout Northwest Missouri met May 25 in Clay County to examine better connections for community leadership and economic growth.

Held at the EDC offices, the exploratory discussion included something rarely tried anywhere: application of the principles of a business management guru, Malcolm Baldrige, to community and economic development.

Spurred in part by the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri, participants included representatives from Clay County communities Excelsior Springs and Gladstone, as well as regional organizations such as the Midwest Excellence Institute.

Defining the topics is complex. A major push involves creating economic development opportunities within the 18-county, Northwest Missouri region but with a grassroots, collaborative framework that would focus on developing local facilitators, especially those from the business community.

“The world is getting so competitive, it’s getting difficult for small communities to play,” noted Max Summers of the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri. “What we’re trying to do is get communities together and strategize on a few key things and then focus only on those.”

Clay County could play a major role, Summers added. “Whatever we do has to be hooked into the urban areas,” he said. “ For Northwest Missouri, that means Kansas City. And Clay County is a great connector for Northwest Missouri. The question is whether or not we can work out a system of communications. If we can work it out, you’d be speaking for not just Clay County, but speaking for 18 counties.”

The initiative is part of Communities of Excellence 2026, which began a national push in early May. Five communities were part of a pilot group, including Maryville and Marceline-Brookfield in Missouri, along with San Diego, Ca., Charleston, S.C., and Kendall, Fla. A Northwest Missouri contingent could be part of a second group set to begin in September.

While each community would set it’s own goals, a major focus is expected to be business development, which is why metro areas like Kansas City and Clay County are needed. The initial work would focus on creating community, county and regional communications for dialog, so individual areas can work together more easily.

”It’s like building a railroad track,” Summers said. “Once it’s built, people will run all kinds of things on that track, but they can’t do that until the track is built.”

Another meeting will be held to continue planning, and the group will contact potential facilitators, including several from the business community.

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