Steady Progress Paints Bright Picture for the Future

Steady Progress Paints Bright Picture for the Future

June 2015 Olathe Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Update

Tim McKee, Chief Executive Officer

 
Tim McKee, CEO Olathe Chamber of CommerceThere isn’t a day that goes by when I am not stopped by someone who asks about a particular development that is occurring in Olathe.
 
Whether it is a new office building, retail entity, school complex or housing subdivision, citizens of our community take immense pride in the growth and development that continues to make Olathe a desirable place to live, work and play. This environment is the byproduct of a collaborative effort of city government, chamber of commerce staff and members, educational entities, non-profit organizations and others that allow us to serve our mission “to foster a progressive community vision for Olathe through inspired leadership, balanced growth, highest educational opportunities, and responsive government to ensure a quality family and business environment.”
 
As the second quarter of 2015 comes to a close, I am pleased with our pattern of growth that continues to pick up steam and show promise for long term sustainability – with the understanding our economy can be affected at any time by issues beyond our control around the globe such as military conflict, public health issues, natural disaster or government action. Last year, total investment in Olathe projects was just over $103 million resulting in 1,990 new or retained jobs that was supported by $10.5 million in state incentives we were able to secure for local businesses. Just shy of 1 million square feet of new and existing space (997,000) opened in 2014. In terms of non-residential building permits for 2014, the City of Olathe issued 39 of the 113 reported by Johnson County in total (more than any other city in the county).
 
Through six months in 2015, we have already eclipsed last year’s total investment and have celebrated major retail openings with Whole Foods Market, At Home and The Furniture Mall of Kansas. This year, we will also see development expand in South Olathe (south of 159th street) for industrial purposes, continued redevelopment along Santa Fe (most notably at Mur-Len and Ridgeview streets) and expansion of technology-focused companies in the K-10/K-7 interchange region. And, not to be overlooked, substantial growth by two of our largest employers: Garmin and Olathe Health Systems.
 
So, why is this happening in Olathe?
 
As I noted above, there is a tremendous collaborative spirit in our community that seeks ways “to make it happen” rather than taking a self-defeating approach of “this can’t happen.” You may be surprised to learn that some of the recent developments are a result of conversations and work sessions that began five years ago. There were times when projects appeared to be dead, only to continue because of a determination and a commitment to this community.
 
But it is more than just talk. We offer the resources that attract people to Olathe. We are a known entity to businesses, therefore it is not unusual for us to get a call out of the blue with interest from companies, developers and real estate professionals who want to call Olathe home. They know we want to partner in their success.
 
One such program is the Chamber’s GrowOLATHE, an effort to help local small businesses and entrepreneurs expand their business and labor force. GrowOLATHE has helped more than a dozen startups with scholarships to participate in the MidAmerica Nazarene/Kauffman Foundation Fast Trac Program. A customizable suite of services with support from our partners is also available to those long-standing businesses who are looking to expand. I am especially excited about the potential of a partnership the City and Chamber have recently formed with Denver-based Innovation Pavilion to support entrepreneurism in Olathe and surrounding region. This company has a strong track record of incubating business and providing an ecosystem for them to exist, grow and prosper. 
 
I believe the reason my optimism for the future is shared by so many others is we have evidence that what we do works. Our past investments and partnerships have added to the energy that permeates our community. We have seen existing businesses grow. We have seen startups blossom. We have seen new businesses bring a fresh perspective and added opportunities.
 
You may be aware that the word “Olathe” means “beautiful” according to the Shawnee Indians. I would say that is an apt description for the transformation we have seen in our community since the recession of the late 2000s.