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Entrepreneurs, Small Business Focus for Look North Luncheon

October 2019

Keynote speaker Dell Gines stressed the need to create entrepreneurship ecosystems.

Growing small businesses and creating an entrepreneur-riendly environment were key topics for the 52nd annual Look North Luncheon Thursday, Sept. 19, at Harrah’s North Kansas City Hotel and Casino.

Sponsored by the Clay County Economic Development Council, the event featured keynote speaker Dell L. Gines of the Federal Reserve Bank and EDC board member Tony Reinhart, who presented the 2019 update of the Clay County Strategic Plan.

Gines, who serves as the Senior Community Development Advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, stressed small business development as a key to growing area economies. He said the benefits include better control of a region’s economic future and also a sense of place and quality of life advantages.

“Entrepreneurs create jobs,” Gines told the over 200 people at the luncheon. “I know all of you wanted that Amazon (headquarters), but small growth companies with zero to 99 employees produce over 60 percent of the jobs in the United States. Clay County is doing a lot of positive things; you’re going in the right direction.”

Tony Reinhart outlined several steps that are needed to implement a more entrepreneur friendly environment.

Reinhart said Clay County’s 2013 Strategic Plan was an overwhelming success, achieving its aggressive goals in job and business growth within only three years. To continue progress, he said more emphasis is needed on strategies to create what Gines calls “entrepreneurship ecosystems,” including more small business funding and workforce development.

Reinhart said one statistic summed up the efforts needed: the net loss of workers who commute out of Clay County compared to those who stay or commute into Clay County. “We need to draw businesses that will provide jobs that people are now traveling to downtown for,” he said. “And we have to be the place where those workers want to come.”

Reinhart said additional community meetings for input would be held this fall and final goals and strategies will be announced at the Dec. 11 Keystone Awards Breakfast. “We’re not going to do it by ourselves,” he concluded. “It will take all of the cities, all of the businesses, everyone. But we’re on the right track.”

EDC Chair Rebecca Hill stressed that the EDC is a "...partner, seeking to retain, attract, build and promote the businesses that are the lifeblood of the area."

Executive Director TJ Berry cited those who have helped build Clay County and the EDC such as Ray Brock, Charles and Patty Garney, John and Nancy Dillingham and Tony Sarver.

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