“I continue to struggle with how people seem to think that if one community is successful, then it must be at the sacrifice of another,” Brien Starner, president of the Blue Springs Economic Development, said. “That’s difficult, and I think legislators in Eastern Jackson County and other areas can clear this up.”
The Missouri Innovation Park is getting some much- needed attention, but Brien Starner wants more.
Not that he wants to downplay the new support he has been given – he just wants more legislators to speak about it and emphasize that it’s not just a Blue Springs project but a statewide project with statewide benefits.
“I continue to struggle with how people seem to think that if one community is successful, then it must be at the sacrifice of another,” Starner, president of the Blue Springs Economic Development, said. “That’s difficult, and I think legislators in Eastern Jackson County and other areas can clear this up.”
Since it was first unveiled in 2008, local legislators have shown support for the proposed 150-acre research park and golf course amenity beyond the simple concept.
State Reps. Bryan Pratt and Gary Dusenberg have shown intense support, specifically for a state bill that would divert some state taxes to benefit the funding for the park, mostly for land acquisition.
But that bill failed to pass the Senate last summer because legislators there felt it was too exclusive to Blue Springs.
Seven Missouri state senators, including Matt Bartle of the 8th District, disagreed throughout the summer with the language in the proposed jobs bill.
Now Starner and organizers are returning with the Jobs for the Future bill, which includes some minor changes that presents the ambitious project as more beneficial to the state as a whole.
“Ninety to 95 percent of the language is the same,” he said. “It simply has more broad language in it.”
Recently Starner spoke before the Liberty City Council, and Mayor Greg Canuteson was reported in another media report as saying he was excited about the long-range possibilities for Liberty and the Kansas City area.
“Blue Springs has already blazed the trail,” Canuteson said in the article. “They’ve been working on this since 2006. This isn’t going to happen in a year.”
State Rep. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, is a sponsor of the newly revised bill, which is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives within the next month.
Closely connected to the proposed park is Gov. Jay Nixon’s efforts to champion a three-part economic development package that includes business expansion incentives, job creation and support for high-tech and bioscience ventures.
Beyond support in Liberty there are other communities who have shown support, including economic officials in Platte and Clay counties, Joplin, Columbia, and St. Joseph. In most cases, Starner said, the economic development departments in those areas have met with Starner and shown support in the project.
“There have been a wide variety of legislators who have been contacted, but the emphasis should be on Eastern Jackson County legislators,” he said.
In the meantime, project organizers continue to wait on a “deal package” that was submitted to the University of Missouri regarding 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 package contained site specifications, layout proposals, and architectural renderings.
In the end, Starner admits that the project and its survival is based, in part, on political environments and specific language.
“Since we started this, I’ve discovered it’s not how you start, it’s how long you can stand the race,” Starner said. “I’ve always seen the benefits in a good project, but it’s not that simple in Jefferson City.”