A win for local workers and employers unfolded the other day at a gathering of Blue Springs business leaders.
Lara Vermillion, president of the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, was giving her members an update on the Certified Work Ready Community program. Workers take a test akin to the ACT most of us took in high school. It measures skill areas such as graphic literacy, applied math and workplace documents.
Jackson County needed 210 businesses to sign up – agreeing to take a look at the program in hiring and promotion – to get certified as a participant. Advocates made strong gains over the summer but, as Vermillion spoke at last Thursday’s luncheon, the county was three businesses short.
Hands started going up.
And, just like that, the county hit 210.
I checked back with Vermillion on Tuesday, and she said she’d just gotten an email from the program confirming success.
“It was very fun. It was kind of exciting,” she said.
She’s been pushing signups for about a year – but was quick to point out that Jodi Krantz, vice president of the Independence Economic Development Council, has been doing the same.
“Jodi’s been working on it a long time,” Vermillion said. “You can’t have just one person.”
The test is called WorkKeys, and proponents say employers who use it have less turnover, fewer disciplinary problems, lower training costs – and higher productivity. Also, Vermillion said, some companies have their current workers take the test and sometimes turn up talents and skills management didn’t know about – or utilize.
There’s been a push to get counties across Missouri to adopt this program. It’s a step in the right direction for workforce development, an area in which Missouri has significant challenges.
Vermillion points out that the certification has be re-earned every three years, so part of the challenge will be showing businesses measures of success.
But for right now, it’s a win.
“We’ll have a big celebration,” Vermillion said.
Tom Cole, also speaking at the chamber luncheon, outlined several businesses coming to Blue Springs or expanding.
Cole, the city’s director of community and economic development, discussed businesses ranging from manufacturing to retailing to health care:
• Old Navy is coming to the old Gordman’s spot at Adams Dairy Landing, the development anchored by Target and Kohl’s.
“This is absolutely tremendous for us,” Cole said.
• Durvet, the veterinary products company that’s been in Blue Springs for many years, is in the midst of an expansion. The company could have looked elsewhere, Cole said, “but they absolutely love us and are committed to the community.”
• Lincare, which does financing for in-home health care, is moving in with 60 jobs.
• Two additions for the Mill Springs Business Park at Missouri 7 and Pink Hill Road – Automotive Wire and Cable, and Metrology Works.
• Blue Springs 8 Miller Theatre at 1901 N.W. Missouri 7 is remodeling.
• Blue Springs Marine is expanding.
• Blue River Dental is building on Main Street downtown.
• Discover Vision Center is coming to the site of the old QuikTrip at Missouri 7 and Vesper Street.
• Van Do It – customized vans – is coming to 321 Route AA.
• A couple storage places are going up – StorTropolis east of Blue Springs Marine off I-70 and Extra Space near the QuikTrip at U.S. 40 and Missouri 7.
There’s a trend behind this: Boomers are moving into smaller homes.
“The trouble with that,” Cole said, “is they still want to keep all their stuff from their bigger spaces.”
Cole also touched on the importance of some recent successes:
• East Forty Brewing opened last year.
“East Forty is more than a brewing company. It’s a big deal for our downtown,” he said.
• Faurecia, which opened last year with about 300 jobs, hasn’t announced plans to expand, but Cole said he expects that.
• Cole stressed the importance of the recent Price Chopper relocation at 7 and 40.
“It really reinvigorated that central part of 7 Highway if you will,” he said.
Part of tax-increment financing plan for that Price Chopper was senior housing in the White Oak Plaza area. Now that’s coming. Novel Place will have 134 units.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or email@example.com. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.