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President's Message

October 2023

From the Business Perspective Newsletter

Playing the long game

We celebrated the long-awaited expansion of Overland Park’s Arboretum and Botanical Garden and its gorgeous LongHouse Visitor Center a few weeks ago.

The Arboretum is one of my favorite places – both as a space to refresh and relax and to show off Overland Park to visitors. Some of my favorite memories were created there – my family celebrating Thanksgiving at the Luminary Walk, laughing with friends at Stems, and searching for the first signs of spring on a crisp winter morning with my best friend. The addition of the spectacular LongHouse and its surrounding gardens, fountains, reflecting pools and panoramic views takes the Arboretum experience to a new level.

At the LongHouse ribbon cutting, I shared that this addition is important from an economic development perspective. It’s a differentiator for our community in terms of amenities. It tells our residents, businesses, and the country we’re a community serious about investing in ourselves.

In the old days, economic development was about having great sites – meaning buildings – good schools, highway access and maybe a golf course – and you could attract new businesses to your community.
Now, it’s not just about an ideal site, the right financing, and quality of life; it’s about the quality of your place. You must demonstrate you have the “cool factor.” Fortunately, Overland Park has been building the quality of our place since we were incorporated in 1960. But that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Every year we must look at what we can do to improve and invest in those things. It’s a long game.
That’s why this LongHouse – and the expansion all around it – is so important. Great companies won’t locate here, and won’t stay and expand in Overland Park, if we don’t have all the amenities – the best schools, great roads, broadband, housing, parks, walkability, entertainment, restaurants, retail – amenities that help them attract and retain their talent.

I’m grateful to our community’s leaders – past and present members of the Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park who had the vision for the LongHouse, past and present City Council members and our professional city staff and volunteers, and of course the numerous donors who made this project possible.

I saw the LongHouse presentation numerous times, but the reality is far greater than I imagined. This is a generational project – a game changer and true gathering space for our region. I look forward to seeing you at the Arboretum!

Oltjen-Tracey for column

written by

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM

President & CEO