From Your Chamber President

The Three Rs for Johnson County
by Tracey Osborne, CCE
Overland Park Chamber President

According to Johnson County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert, the “three Rs” have been replaced, at least so far as our County is concerned. No longer will we refer to reading, writing and arithmetic; our new alliteration references “Resilient, Ready and Rebounding.” How appropriate for a region that took the hits of the recession, but to use another “R,” has regrouped in many ways to adapt to this new normal.

Chairman Eilert’s message at the recent State of the County address gave us much to celebrate, but also some cautionary words to ponder as we look to the future.
First, let’s celebrate our resiliency, and examine the evidence that our County has rebounded through the years of the recession.
• Unemployment in Johnson County in 2013 ended at 3.8%, down from 4.5% in 2012. Compare our numbers to 5.4% in the KC Metro and 4.5% statewide in Kansas.
• 68% of ALL NEW JOBS in Kansas in 2013 were created in Johnson County. One-third of the wages earned statewide were earned here.
• Housing sales in 2013 increased 15.2%.
• Building permits for single-family homes in the County increased 31.6%. Multi-family permits increased a whopping 274%.
• 324 new businesses were started in the County last year.

It’s no wonder Johnson County has adopted the brand “Where Opportunity Lives.”

But lest I be accused of parroting only the good stats from the presentation, Chairman Eilert provided food for thought as well. We must be “ready” for the future.

Sixty Kansas City area residents turn 65 every day. Doesn’t sound like much, until you realize that by 2030, over 137,000 Johnson Countians will be 65. The last of the Baby Boomers will hit retirement age, and we (yes, that means I’ll be one of them) will join the bubble, requiring health care, social and transportation services. We are becoming more diverse. Our demographic composition is changing as well, as we learned that the County operates six food pantries.

Other traditional county services remain as critical as ever to our high quality of life – our popular parks and recreation system, transportation through County Assisted Road System (CARS), and our public libraries that attract 2.4 million visitors annually – more than the Chiefs and Royals combined. Keeping this quality requires commitment and funding even as we have retained the lowest mill levy in Kansas.
Perhaps the most important statement made was Chairman Eilert’s reminder that “success today does not necessarily mean success continues tomorrow.” This is true in each of our businesses, but especially so for our communities. It is not just the job of those whom we elect to ensure our communities are what we envision. The responsibility belongs to each of us. It begins when we choose who to vote for. It continues when we encourage others to vote, and continues again when we provide feedback to our elected officials about the kind of community in which we want to live and work. And it extends further still when we become engaged in the process by attending meetings, volunteering to serve on boards and committees, and by remaining informed about what is happening in our community.

All of that adds up to what I call the Fourth R: Responsibility.

Past columns by Chamber President Tracey Osborne, CCE:
April 2014 - A winning combination
  • Black and VeatchJP MorganMenorah Medical CenterMetcalf BankShawnee Mission HealthSprint