• Education and your community's cool factor

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  • Mike Downing had several messages for Independence Monday night, but he kept coming back to one.
    Talent. More specifically, talent plus education.
    “Regions prosper if they have the ability to learn and adapt,” Downing, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, told the Independence City Council.
    That means some of the old economic development ideas such as companies looking simply for the cheapest place to do business don’t apply any more, he said. Cities and regions need to look hard at education, and they even need to consider their communities’ cool factor.
    “Kids are different than they were in our generation,” he said, adding that instead of moving to where the jobs are, the bright young people cities seek are looking to location first and job second. “So we need to make our communities as cool as possible.”
    That means good infrastructure and a range of amenities – companies expect and demand that, Downing said – and advocates of the area’s commuter rail plans have contended long and loud that’s one of the many advantages of their proposal.
    Talent and educational opportunity, he said, are crucial to the startup companies – particularly in technology – that every region desires.
    “We want to create the next Cerner or the next Microsoft that can grown exponentially,” he said.
    What should Independence do, Council Member Eileen Weir asked? Downing suggested getting a branch of a four-year college.
    “Anything you can do to facilitate education and talent,” he said.
    Downing stressed that the cost of doing business is just part of the mix, not the sole criterion for companies trying to decide where to locate.
    “It’s never one thing. It’s not just cheap labor. It’s not just low taxes,” he said.
    And he offered his take on the Kansas vs. Missouri economic development issue. Kansas last May moved to cut some business taxes, and the Missouri General Assembly is considering a large income tax cut in response.
    “Now, our friends to the west have done some stuff that’s got some people stirred up. ... And I would argue its not as big a deal” as is being portrayed, he said.
    He defended Missouri’s overall tax rates and business climate and said Kansans pay more in sales taxes, property taxes and gas taxes. And he said only one company has jumped to the Kansas side because of its new incentives.
    Regions need to keep the focus on education, he said.
    “The skills gap is increasingly growing, so being average is over,” he said.
    “I would never give up on the education factor,” he also said, “because that’s where the growth is going to be.”
    Page 2 of 2 - New bed and breakfast
    It was heartening to see the ribbon cutting the other day for the Silver Heart Inn in the Napoleon B. Stone Home on Noland Road.
    That’s the Greek Revival plantation-style home just north of 23rd Street, one of the not so many homes in town still around from before the Civil War.
    I always knew it as the Gamble home because I used to pal around with one of the Gamble kids in high school. A couple of years ago, Jim Gamble put the home – one of the city’s jewels – on the market.
    Melanie and Perry Johnson now are giving the home another new life, as a bed and breakfast with four rooms. It maintains the historical feel, and it’s nicely done.
    Here’s a video: http://www.examiner.net/video/x1037533767/Silver-Heart-Inn
    Oh, by the way, it’s hardly a historic site, but just a stone’s throw away, the new QuikTrip at 23rd Street and Noland is just about ready to open, replacing the one immediately to the south. End of the month for an opening, the company says. No word on disposition of the current facility.
    Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net or 816-350-6313. Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC.

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