When incoming Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council Chair Machelle Riffe took the microphone at the annual luncheon last week, she wasn’t there to simply receive a ceremonial passing of the gavel from outgoing chair Keith Asel.
She was there to deliver a message — that Lee’s Summit means business and collaboration and cooperation will help get us there.
Riffe’s inspirational talk capped off an annual luncheon bursting with optimistic news on the development front. Updates included a “Shovel Award” in job creation for St. Luke’s East Hospital, a booming leader in our local healthcare arena that added 118 new jobs in the last year. And another honor in capital investment to John Knox Village — with more than $60 million invested back into our community.
In the last 12 months, the news around Lee’s Summit development has been defined as positive and encouraging. But honestly, some of these numbers are just staggeringly reassuring:
- More than 600 new jobs created.
- $111.6 million in capital investment.
- Opening of B&B Theatre in New Longview.
- Redevelopment of Pine Tree Plaza.
- Construction and opening of Summit Square Apartments.
- Completion of Lee’s Summit Airport runway expansion.
- EXL Service announcement, bringing 250 new jobs to Lee’s Summit.
Jobs, workforce development and job placement has been a continual focus of the LSEDC for many years, going back to past chairs like Christine Bushyhead, Bill Brown and Brad Cox.
In Lee’s Summit, there’s a whopping 71,500 people in the labor force, a number that has been increasing by about 700 people per year. And while national trends continue to point slightly downward, labor force participation in Lee’s Summit is over 70 percent.
When the Toys R Us warehouse announced it was closing earlier this year, the LSEDC jumped in to team with that organization to help place the hundreds of soon-to-be out of work employees with potential employers and future career opportunities.
How we work, where we work, pay scales, prospective new employers and employees — all of these topics have risen to the top of the priority list in Lee’s Summit.
The top occupations in Lee’s Summit, not surprisingly, are in the healthcare field, with registered nurses as the No. 1 job opportunity. Secretaries/administrative assistants are second, followed by customer service representatives, office clerks, management (general and operations) and nursing assistants.
As we continue to add multi-family and other housing in Lee’s Summit — hundreds of new residents are now living off of Chipman Road and hundreds, if not thousands, more could be coming as projects like Village at View High, Paragon Star, The Grove and proposed housing in downtown Lee’s Summit begin to come into focus.
With those new residents will come an increased workforce — one that is educated and likely paid above average wages.
Our schools may not see an immediate influx of students, but down the line as some renters become home buyers, we could see our public schools balloon to over 18,000 students and beyond, and some taking an option to attend private school now that St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School is open, bringing the local private high school options to two.
Whatever the future holds, we have to be development ready, workforce trained and open to possibilities that may test our comfort level, but will surely be good for the future of Lee’s Summit.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.