'Long-term job investment': Gov. Parson lauds new MCC-Blue River vocational facility
While Ozarks Technical Community College is near the hometown of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Metropolitan Community College Chancellor Kimberly Beatty jokes that she gets a bit miffed at seeing Parson in several photos at Ozark.
“OTC has nothing on us,” Beatty said before introducing the governor at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony at MCC-Blue River’s groundbreaking for an additional East Campus in Independence that will house several vocational degree programs to be transferred from the current MCC-Business and Technology campus.
“This competition between here and OTC is very real,” Parson said in response. But on a serious note, he said, the $10.2 million facility planned for completion in the fall of 2021 represents is part of a key investment in workforce development, one of the governor’s often-stated chief goals, along with infrastructure.
“Those two pieces are the future of our state, and they’re also the future of our kids, to be able to stay here,” Parson said. “This is long-term job investment.”
The new facility, approximately 25,000 square feet, will be on Missouri 78 just east of Blue River's main campus, which is at Missouri 78 and South Jackson Drive in eastern Independence, adjacent to Blue River’s precision driving training course and near the Regional Animal Shelter and Independence Fire’s training area.
The facility will house MCC’s commercial driver’s license (CDL), utility lineman and forklift/warehousing programs, and will also be home to the Great Plains OSHA Education Center.
“They’ll come to this ultra-modern, state-of-the-art facility,” Beatty said, and the school will be able to a supply a “steady chain of highly skilled, highly trained workers.”
“From this,” she said, “we’ll have a better learning environment.”
The indoor utility-pole field, state-of-the art OSHA training lab, and cargo bay for operation of forklifts or other large vehicles set the facility apart from training environments typically found at other educational institutions, MCC-Blue River President Thomas Meyer says. The building will also house several modern classroom spaces as well as storage for vehicles used in Blue River’s police and fire academies.
Parson said investment with community colleges will always be a priority for him, and the boom of online retail sales means more distribution center jobs that Missouri should be well-positioned to gain.
“Even though these times are hard, you still have to invest,” he said, to provide something stable for young workers when the pandemic ends. “There are opportunities for us, but we have to be ready.”
Added J.D. Kehrman, president of the Independence Economic Development Council, “These are direct pathways to real careers and real employment.”
Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said her city aims to build an educated, highly skilled workforce, and the new Blue River development, along with the programs it will offer “takes us leaps and bounds toward achieving these goals.”
Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross said he remembers from a National League of Cities conference one year that for a city to be successful with economic development “you have to have the educational component,” and with Blue River and its programs, “we have that.”
Blue Springs, he said, is not in direct competition with Independence or Lee’s Summit when it comes to economic development.
“We’re in this together,” he said. “When they’re successful, I’m successful (with my city).”
“Anytime you see concrete being poured or steel being erected, it’s a sign of progress,” said Dale Herl, superintendent of the Independence School District. Add in the components of education and workforce development, he said, “and that’s the trifecta. This ties in perfectly with the ISD (career) academies.”