Leadership Overland Park Session 8 – Economic Development Day

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2012 by
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Sprint Campus

The eighth session of Leadership Overland Park was held on the Sprint Campus, which is a location I’ve driven by a hundred times but never had the chance to really see. It is truly an impressive campus. The facilities available for work are full of the latest technology. In addition to the offices and conference rooms the campus includes a gym, convenience store and even a Walgreen’s. Driving by this campus it looks rather cold and prison-like but from the inside it has the feel of a college campus. I’m sure it would be a neat place to work and because of its size and importance to the Overland Park area, it was the perfect place to host Economic Development Day.

In our previous session on regionalism, we had discussed economic development and how it relates to the Kansas City metro area as a whole. Today’s session was focused on economic development within Overland Park. It was another day of learning a lot about what goes on behind the scenes to keep Overland Park growing. Companies don’t move to a new location by accident, there are many people and activities at work to make this happen. Steve Kelley, the Deputy Secretary of Business Development for the Kansas Department of Commerce, told us about the growing role of “site location consultants”. The role of these consultants is to act as the middle man (or woman) with the businesses they work for and the communities they’re considering relocating to. They gather information about the community and negotiate terms to try to make a move to this area more appealing to their clients. At the local level the consultants work with the Overland Park Economic Development Council, headed by Beth Johnson. She works to get the word out about Overland Park and works directly with companies to help them find the place that is the best fit for them.

Our afternoon activities included an exercise where our class broke in to groups to act as relocation consultants. Each group met with a hypothetical company that was looking to relocate to Overland Park. We met with four “companies” where each gave us an overview as to what their business was and why they were considering a move to OP. Our group then picked one company that we were responsible for presenting to the City Council and Planning Commission in an effort to get the Councils approval so we could move forward with relocating the company to OP. Active members of both the City Council and Planning Commission came to our session so we got to hear how these discussions really happen. Enjoyable exercise.

Our last speaker of the day was Mark Williams, the CFO of FishNet Security. FishNet is one of the largest internet security firms in the US with hundreds of clients in the Fortune 1000 list. They recently relocated from downtown Kansas City to one of the available buildings on the Sprint campus. The reason FishNet was looking to relocate was to find a much larger space with plenty of room to grow. The space at Sprint offered the increased square footage they needed, was an equal or shorter commute for 80% of their staff, and came with the existing technology infrastructure they needed to move in and start work quickly. In addition, the state of Kansas was able to offer some incentives to move to Kansas which made the move even easier. This is an impressive company that has been growing at a rate of 40% since they began in 2006.

Yet another good session at LOP. Our last full day session is Quality of Life day on Tuesday, June 5th.

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