Karyn Page, president and CEO of Kansas Global Trade Services, would like to see Newton make the economic "A-Team."
She said economic development is a challenging and difficult game, and if you want to play, you have to be creative and forward-thinking. She believes the development of the Kansas Logistics Park will help set Newton apart in the region.
"What you're doing is not being done everywhere," she said. "... I think it's a model of what should be occurring."
Page was just one of the attendees at a Wednesday meeting about the KLP that featured a gathering of city and county officials, as well as local business leaders. During the meeting, a KLP advisory task force presented their ideas and opinions about the KLP project and its future. The task force met three times throughout the month of November and included members from various organizations and the private sector.
Building relationships and partnerships is a key part of the KLP's future, task force members said. Traditional advertising approaches — including cold calls and bulk mailings — just aren't as effective anymore.
The task force encouraged Newton to continue to work on building relationships in the Kansas City area. The city is only 200 miles away and is one of the nation's largest rail-heads, and it could tie into the future of the KLP.
Newton also needs to remember it is competing not just regionally or nationally — it must be prepared to compete on a global level, task force members said. Officials can't just follow current trends in economic development, either; they have to anticipate where needs will be in the future.
"The key is to anticipate where the trends are going," City Attorney Bob Myers said.
It's also important for infrastructure such as streets and rail already to be in place. Mickey Fornaro-Dean, executive director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council, said if there isn't enough already-existing infrastructure at a site, companies may go elsewhere to find land to build on.
"When they say 'shovel ready,' they're literally meaning 'shovel ready,'" Fornaro-Dean said.
Companies even may be looking for already-constructed facilities. The task force believed the KLP's "if-we-build-it-they-will-come" approach was a good choice, though they said it does contain some risks.
Task force members said the KLP should target a variety of industries, including energy (oil, gas and renewables), agriculture, manufacturing, robotics and composites.
Troy Carlson with Lenexa-based Initiatives Inc. said the United States is headed for a major oil and gas boom, and encouraged Newton to look for ways to tie the KLP into the trend. More modern fracking methods could push the United States into becoming one of the largest oil producers in the world.
"We are going to be the powerhouse of oil and gas production," he said.