Year-End Message Promises Great Things for Clay County, EDC
Julie Sola
EDC Chair Julie Sola outlined a long list of dramatic developments in her State of the EDC speech Dec. 15.

EDC Chair Julie Sola gave an important speech at the Keystone Awards Luncheon Dec. 15. Her “State of the EDC” comments were a comprehensive summation of 2022, and a look to 2023: 

Clay County has had its fair share of ups and downs this year. 

We lost our good friend and 1987 Look North Award winner Ray Brock; Officer Daniel Vasquez was killed during a routine traffic stop; and Cerner now Oracle, will be looking for a buyer for their beautiful campus in North Kansas City. 

One thing we know for sure is that the Northland community continues to rise above challenges that come our way. 

The legacy of the Look North award will continue to live on as it does today. Streets were lined with community support as officer Vasquez was laid to rest. And your EDC looks at finding an occupant of the Cerner campus as an opportunity. The beautiful campus will one day soon find a new business in North Kansas City because Clay County is a great place to be. 

Clay County continues to grow. North Point Development moved into the former Farmland Building on North Oak, META, previously Facebook, is building the first of many data centers in the I-435 and Highway 169 corridor. Herzog is investing $6.1 million in Smithville, Ford Motor Company made a $95 million investment and created 1,100 union jobs for a third shift at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo to increase production of the Transit, America’s best-selling commercial van, and the all-new E-Transit electric van.

In Clay County, our schools, hospitals, and cities continue to find spots on national rating systems. Liberty’s EPIC Elementary was named one of 297 National Blue-Ribbon Schools. The Northland Career Center, with support from your EDC, assisted in helping their leaders acquire a $30 million matching grant from our state legislators. Once the additional $30 million is raised, the Northland will have a new Northland Workforce Development Center that will be unrivaled in the area. The Excelsior Springs Job Core received $400,000 from Governor Mike Parson’s distribution of Career and Technical Education Grants. Skilled trades continue to build this country every day. 

NKCH received a Best Regional Hospital designation. And for the second consecutive evaluation period, Liberty Hospital has received an “A” grade for its dedication to patient safety fromThe Leapfrog Group

Kearney, Smithville, Liberty, Gladstone, and Kansas City all worked on municipal master plans this year. 

Along with the county mayors, your EDC helped to usher in a new form of government for Clay County. In a couple of weeks, our County Commission will grow from three to seven members, and we were able to attract the talented Dianna Wright to become our County Administrator. 

We had a lot to celebrate this year: 

• Our county turned 200 years old this year.

• Clay County Savings Bank turned 100. 

• Worlds of Fun turned 50 this year.

• Ochai Abaji who was drafted 14th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first Clay County resident to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft. 

• Officer Vasquez was named the Honorary Officer of the Year during this year’s Awards for Valor ceremony.

• Dawn Cramer credits the EDC with a huge hand in her being named as one of the four gubernatorial appointments to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. 

• North Kansas City Police Chief Kevin Freeman was presented with the Clarence M Kelley Award for outstanding law enforcement administration in the metropolitan area. 

• While not an officer yet, Oak Park’s Ava Donegan applied a torniquet to an Excelsior Springs officer who had just been shot. She is 17.

• Two of our high school students were acknowledged by Governor Parson during his State of the State address this year. The Northland Career Center students were in the House gallery during the speech. Audrey Strope of Winnetonka and Nate Wassam of North Kansas City High Schools, both in the Law Enforcement and Crime Scene Investigation tracts at NCC, had a day they will never forget. 

• We celebrate Shawna Searcy, the Executive Director of the Kearney Area Development Council for being named the President of the Missouri Economic Development Council. 

• We worked with our friends at Northland Neighborhoods Incorporated to convince RideKC to create a Highway 210 bus route.

• We were at the table when Northland Neighborhood’s Deb Herman led the effort to convince RideKC Development to purchase the Vivion Road K-Mart to create a new development.

• Against the wishes of most Northlanders, the Kansas City Council Districts were split horizontally instead of vertically leaving all our older neighborhoods in the Second District. Instead of taking it as a setback, the 7-6 vote presented a great opportunity to unite the Northland. Eighty percent of the KC housing starts are in the Northland, with 60% in Clay.

• Kearney is in the process of adding a new entrance into their city from I-35 at 19th Street. 

• The new Buck O’Neil Bridge is nearing completion. 

• We cheer our friends in Platte County as they will soon cut the ribbon on the new KCI Airport terminal. 

• Excelsior Springs received $21.5 million for sidewalks through a RAISE grant. 

• Dave Johnson, who created Chicken and Pickle in North Kansas City, now has six locations and won the Mr. K Award from the Greater Kansas City Chamber. 

• Our library system continues the voter-approved capital improvements, including opening the Woodneath Library Center Auditorium. 

• CNBC ranked Missouri as the best state for low business costs. The Clay County Midwest National Air Center Airport in Mosby just completed a $4 million overlay of their runway. Due to astute work by their Airport Advisory Board and staff, the Federal Airport Improvement Program funded 90% of the cost. 

• North Kansas City hosted Global Entrepreneurial Week last month.

• When the National League of Cities visited Kansas City and wanted to see what was trending in education, they picked the North Kansas City School District over every other district in the Metro.

I am positive I have not covered all the things we celebrated in Clay County. 

Your EDC also gave back. We joined Elaina’s Wish for Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Elaina, suffering from cancer, did not ask for a trip to Disney World or some other adventure for her family through the Make a Wish Foundation. She wanted to build 300 beds for kids who were sleeping on the floor. Your EDC joined with three Sleep in Heavenly Peace Chapters at the Truman Sports Complex this summer to make Elaina’s wish come true.

While there has been a lot to celebrate, you could say that we are just getting started. You are going to hear an update on our 587 Plan. The intersection of I-435 and Highway 152 has nothing but opportunity. Your EDC sees it as an attitude adjustment for the Northland and a game changer for the entire Metro.

Additionally, we will be working on infrastructure. Next month your EDC has arranged for everyone in the Northland involved with the Mid-America Regional Council’s transportation process to gather at our office. We intend to organize and create a block of advocates for state and federal funding to make sure our growth will relate to safe roads with the necessary capacity.

Finally, Kirk Davis will begin to develop the strategic plan for the next several years for your EDC. It has been a pleasure to serve as your Chairwoman this year. With your support we can make next year even better. 

Thank you for listening to the state of the EDC.

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