When members of the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation and the Blue Springs Growth Initiative met with Rep. Ike Skelton on Thursday, there was other news brewing about 120 miles east.

When members of the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation and the Blue Springs Growth Initiative met with Rep. Ike Skelton on Thursday, there was other news brewing about 120 miles east.

That’s where the University of Missouri Board of Curators was possibly discussing in open session for the first time the university’s role in the proposed Missouri Innovation Park, the ambitious life science and animal research park that has been a main point of focus for the city.

The university board is expected to hear about the proposed 180,000 square feet of development on 20 acres within the park, named The Mizzou Center, which is scheduled to be the first building to open, possibly next year. The meeting is expected to continue today.

But Skelton, representing Missouri’s 4th Congressional District since 1977, knew nothing of that – or any specifics of the park, for that matter.

“This was just an informal briefing,” Skelton said after the meeting.

Skelton joins Sen. Kit Bond in the list of representatives the city and EDC has called upon for informal project briefings. Bond visited late last year and pledged to help as much as he could.

By now, most anyone connected to economic development and the city are beyond informal briefings. Since it was unveiled in December 2008, the property on Adams Dairy Parkway near Interstate 70 has seen a flurry of activity. Most of that activity has been conceptual, however, a fact that organizers on Thursday did not shy away from.

Eric Johnson, city administrator, told Skelton that for years cities and economic development corporations “chased smokestacks” and then “retail,” but there is some belief that retail development is saturated, Johnson said.

“The last 10 years there’s been a shift to science and research,” Johnson said.

Robin Schluter, former CEO for St. Mary’s Medical Center, was in attendance on Thursday as well. She said she’s showing her support for the project, bringing community awareness where she could.

As everyone in the meeting agreed, Schluter said she felt the project is important for animal research and life science but also to help Missouri make a name for itself in animal science and research – much like Kansas has done.

Recently Brien Starner, president of the EDC, spoke before the Liberty City Council, and both the council and mayor showed support. State Rep. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, is a sponsor of the newly revised bill – Jobs for the Future, which would divert some state taxes to benefit the funding for the park, mostly for land acquisition. That bill is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives within the next month.

While Skelton is a leader in the House on defense issues, the idea of an innovation park is not lost on him. He understands that such a park would bring jobs. As organizers have said, the park expects to bring as many as 3,000 high-paying jobs.

“Yes, this could bring a lot of jobs to the area,” he said.

Skelton agreed that the state has been trailing Kansas in the animal research and life science area. While he did not offer specifics concerning what he would or could do to offer help, he offered his support.

“This is impressive.”