St. Joseph may have recently lost out on the big prize of securing two important USDA agencies that will relocate to Kansas City. But officials still think the means exist for new jobs in the area.
Kansas City was chosen among other large metropolitan areas, with St. Joseph supplying its own bid, toward landing the department’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The service’s mission is to anticipate trends and emerging issues in agriculture, while the institute offers leadership and funding for programs that advance ag-related sciences. Officials made the announcement in early May.
Despite the rejection, officials see some tangible pluses from the upcoming relocation.
“I think in part it will depend on where they will locate in the Kansas City area,” said Patt Lilly, president and chief executive officer for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. St. Joseph is still planning to provide information for the department to consider available office space within the American Family Insurance complex on Mitchell Avenue, in case the federal government intends to look beyond the Kansas City metro area for its needs. Lilly said the General Services Administration will work with the USDA on the exact spot to relocate. A local delegation met with officials in Washington, D.C., about the move.
“They’ll put it out for bid,” he said of the project. “We believe we potentially may fall in that region. I think that the Greater Kansas City area is open. So that means they could locate here.”
A decision to situate the offices in North Kansas City or Platte County would be the most advantageous for St. Joseph, he added. Yet there are other choices in Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas.
“We stand to gain from those jobs,” said Lilly how the closest proximity would relate best to St. Joseph. “That makes some sense.”
Current speculation shows that perhaps as much as half of the affected USDA employees won’t decide to make the switch from the nation’s capital to the Midwest, resulting in open jobs accompanying the switch. Family considerations are playing a role, as many employees openly rejected the move when announced by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. The decision to come to Kansas City places the offices closer to their customer base, including the life sciences corridor.
“This is an area that benefits from the ag economy,” Lilly stated. “They wanted to be close to the land grant universities.”
Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said he’s excited for the opportunity the USDA brings to the region. Students at all of the renowned land-grant universities of the Midwest could provide a good crop of educated prospective employees for the units, he said.
“We’ve got a plentiful supply of ag economists,” said Hegeman, with statistics and business majors included as well. “That’s the regional talent ... It’s a great win.”
Otherwise, the importance of agriculture and agribusiness stands Northwest Missouri in good stead for the upcoming arrival, he said.
Hegeman said the Kansas City Area Development Council, which helped organize support for the area’s overall bid, will be instrumental in leading the recruitment endeavors. He said the above-average wages will stimulate the economy.
Chris Clark, a spokesman for Triumph Foods, praised the USDA’s interest in moving closer to nation’s agricultural base.
“I feel like this is a positive move for our area and the ag industry,” Clark said.
The relocation is projected to occur by the end of the year.