Archive for Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Eco devo director: County in position for more growth

August 11, 2004

While working for the city of Gladstone, Mo., Lynn McClure often found himself redeveloping areas where the picture of progress had already been painted. The allure of his new post in Leavenworth County lies in that many parts of the canvass haven't been filled yet.

McClure is the new director of Leavenworth Area Development, an organization designed to promote the economic growth of Leavenworth County. McClure replaces former director Bill Schulte, who resigned in November 2003. McClure began work Aug. 2.

McClure, Gladstone's economic development director for three years, said the potential of Leavenworth County, particularly in the county's southern portion, made his new job an attractive proposition.

"It's like a good cake mix," McClure said. "You guys have all the ingredients you need to be great.

"The potential out here is great. There's a lot of possibility of what we can do here."

While McClure's job entails considering economic development strategies that are for the "good of the county as a whole," he said areas in southern Leavenworth County, specifically Basehor and Tonganoxie, provide a backdrop for exciting new ventures.

"I'm excited about the potential of both ends of the county," McClure said.

"But the southern portion -- there's a lot of opportunity down there."

McClure said he will busy himself during the next few weeks by meeting representatives, elected officials and community leaders from each municipality in Leavenworth County. This has already taken place in part -- he met with the Leavenworth County Commission and delegates from each city during the interview process. But McClure said he hopes to schedule less formal, more educational meetings in coming weeks.

"I'm trying to ramp up quick but it's really about trying to digest all the information," he said.

Although he's only been on the job for a little more than a week and he's not yet familiar with all aspects of the county and details of its development, McClure said he does understand the importance of at least one question concerning the future prospects for commercial, retail and industrial growth in Leavenworth County -- the future of the Kansas Highway 7 corridor.

The highway corridor was a topic broached during his interview process, McClure said.

Currently, the Kansas Department of Transportation is at work trying to formulate a plan for the highway that would satisfy the needs of each city in the county. The debate for the highway centers on maintaining high-speed access along K-7 or allowing more lighted intersections, exits and off-ramps along the highway.

Cities in the north, Leavenworth and Lansing, have asked KDOT for the former so easy access could be maintained to Johnson County, Kansas City and other parts of the metropolitan area. Basehor has petitioned for more exits and off-ramps so the city could take advantage of economic development opportunities along the highway.

McClure said arguments for both strategies have merit.

Allowing off ramps, lighted intersections and exits along K-7 would "enhance quickly the southern end but deter quickly from the northern part," he said.

While it appears an either-or situation, McClure said that doesn't necessarily have to be so. He believes there is a compromise solution to the highway riddle. He said fly-overs with ramps -- a system similar to what's seen on Shawnee Mission Parkway -- is "kind of a half-in-half solution" but one that "provides both entities (Leavenworth and Lansing in the north, Basehor to south) satisfaction."

When asked of the county's future in southern Leavenworth County, McClure said he sees nothing but a bright future ahead. He called Basehor and Tonganoxie the "future of the county."

"The rooftops are coming to Basehor and Tonganoxie and the rooftops bring the retail," McClure said.

He said both of those cities can further their expansions by maintaining growth through proper planning and not "just developing for the sake of developing" and also by capitalizing on the Village West entertainment and tourism district, located just miles east of both cities.

"There is significant potential for the southern half to tap into what's happening in western Wyandotte County," McClure said.

"We have to create a thought process. How do we get those dollars spent across the county line?"

A mere 60 acres of Village West land remains available for development, and once that ground is acquired and the area is built out, McClure said, southern Leavenworth County needs to be prepared for an even bigger boom than it's seeing now.

"When that hits, Basehor needs to be thinking about it being the next area," McClure said. "When that 60 acres are gone, where are (developers) going to go? They're going to go west.

"When it does (happen), we have to be ready."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.