From our December 2021 Business Perspective Newsletter
2021: A Year in Review
A year ago we gathered for the Chamber Annual meeting Zoom-style, amazed the pandemic was still strong and unsure of what 2021 would bring. Little did we know, the challenges would be similar, but with a new twist.
It has been a privilege to serve as Chairman of the Board this year, helping this great organization pursue its core purpose to make Overland Park prosper. I am proud to carry on the legacy of so many incredible leaders including one of the Chamber’s first chairmen and founders, Ben Craig, who led Metcalf Bank which became Central Bank of the Midwest, where I proudly serve as President and CEO.
As our business community moved into 2021 still reeling from the pandemic, your Chamber was busy providing resources during the second wave of PPP loans, advocating for direct aid to small businesses, Medicaid expansion and for changes in the Kansas unemployment system. Highlights of the year continued as the Chamber advocated for improvements to our state’s busiest highway corridor with the U.S. 69 Expansion and Modernization project. This was successful as the State of Kansas approved a $300 million investment – as well as an expedited schedule for improving the 167th Street interchange. This project will include on/off-ramps to U.S. 69, and widening 167th to a four-lane street between Antioch Road and Metcalf Avenue.
The Chamber proactively partnered with the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City to determine if and how changing demographics, economic growth and the pandemic may impact long-standing quality of life priorities and views on taxation. We surveyed 500 Overland Park voters, with results confirming that priorities remain consistent with what has made Overland Park strong: commitment to educational excellence, public safety, quality jobs, infrastructure and access to health care.
And as citizens throughout Johnson County prepared for pivotal elections, the Chamber was there, providing dedicated resources on www.VoteJoCo.com, a non-partisan website maintained by our own Kevin Walker, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, to help voters register and educate themselves through candidate profiles as well as local, county and national video forums on relevant topics. With more than 16,000 views and more than a 70% increase over prior years, the site is fast becoming one of the best resources for Johnson County voters.
Despite the many challenges this year, the Chamber partnered with the Economic Development Council as a changemaker for economic success in bringing 2,153 new jobs, retaining 231 and more than $66.8 million in capital investment to our community.
I would like to thank you, our members, for adding your bold voice to ours, joining us in tough conversations that tackled big issues, advocating with us for action and growth, and partnering with us as we work hard every day to make Overland Park the best place to build a business, a career and a home. I would also like to thank Tracey Osborne Oltjen and the entire Chamber team for their hard work, unwavering commitment and for allowing me to be a small part of something bigger.
I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow board of directors, under the leadership of 2022 Chairman Tony Rupp, as the Chamber continues to be the resource, advocate, convener and changemaker that drives economic success forward in our city, county and state.