Lee’s Summit is a Forward-Thinking Community on the Cusp of all that Shines!
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When you think about a suburb of Kansas City, there are many ideas that probably pop into your head, and terms like sleepy, bedroom community and even boring may come to mind. Throw all those perceived notions out the proverbial window this instant when you think about Lee’s Summit!
This community has grown leaps and bounds through recent years, namely because of leaders that believe in and love their city. Lee’s Summit wants to build a reputation as an innovation-minded city, and one of the organizations helping to propel the city forward is Velocity Lee’s Summit, a nonprofit, which focuses on business advocacy for startups. It was formed in 2015 after then-Mayor Randy Rhoads and the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce identified a deficiency in connecting community resources to the startup and entrepreneurial community. A task force determined that the best way to serve local startups was through hosting events and educational programming, which current Mayor Bill Baird believes in whole-heartedly.
The Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce is the catalyst for economic growth and prosperity throughout Eastern Jackson County. Working in collaboration with their members and community partners, we’ve created a proactive leadership environment which allows businesses to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, where there is no shortage of business hurdles to overcome.
They do this through networking and advocacy, as well as by facilitating a series of business and professional development seminars that provide innovative and flexible solutions which engage and inspire their ever-expanding member base.
Just imagine for a moment the power of 1,000 plus businesses, employing over 37,000 smart-thinking, dedicated and passionate people and what we can accomplish as they move forward together.
Another winning organization is Summit Technology Academy (STA), and instructor, Lisa Oyler, heads this Lee’s Summit R-7 School District group. STA opened its doors 20 years ago in 1999 in the building on Chipman Road that was formerly the Western Electric building. The school opened with one course, Principles of Technology, which has since evolved into their engineering program. The second-year they added computer science.
“I began working at STA 18 years ago in the fall of 2001 to teach computer courses related to the CompTIA national certifications for computer hardware and computer networking,” Oyler explained. “After the first year, we became a Cisco Networking Academy program and started teaching internetworking or IT courses. As the year passed the school added programs that were considered high demand or technology related and we now offer traditional engineering, biomedical, nursing and other medically related as well as digital media, computer science both programming and networking. We also have a course focused on international business.”
In 2011 the computer science program moved from hardware and operating system courses to primarily internetworking and telecommunication, as well as cybersecurity. As an instructor in the Cisco Networking Academy at both STA and Metropolitan Community College Oyler had been through the required training for the Cisco Security course and so obtained approval to add it as a course which she began teaching that year. At that same time, she happened to get an e-mail from DESE in Missouri regarding the CyberPatriot competition. She asked her class if they wanted to participate and they said yes, and they have been competing since that time. This will be their ninth year of participating in the competition.
“There is a huge shortage of cybersecurity talent, but it is growing rapidly, and the shortage is significant. A year ago, I was hearing from industry partners that there were 1 million jobs in cyber globally, and by next year it’s expected to exceed 3.5 million jobs,” she continued.
They started CyberPatriot in 2011 one team of seven students. In 2015 they recruited and started middle school teams and have increased the number of students in the program to around 25 teams the last two years. Over the years they have had seven teams make it to the national finals. Five of those were high school teams who placed fifth twice, third twice, were the national champions once, took the Cisco Networking Championship three years straight in 2013, 14 and 15, and had the second place middle school team in the nation in 2016, and had the number one middle school in the nation in 2017.
“We have had great success! The competition numbers keep growing rapidly each year and this past year in our high school division there were 3,300 teams. The entire purpose of CyberPatriot is to get kids into STEM-related courses and degrees, and to fill the need for cybersecurity professionals in both the public and private sector.”
There were 1,978 teams in their division when they took first place that year. Only 12 teams make it to nationals, so it is very difficult. This past year their best team was 21st, last year 13th and the year before 16th so they are always competitive.
Another area in which Lee’s Summit excels is its entertainment opportunities and offerings. Tede Price, Superintendent of Recreation/Special Events, explains that Lee’s Summit Parks & Recreation has something for every age and every season! With 32 parks, four community centers, an aquatic center, two splash pads, an amphitheater, multiple acres of green space and an outdoor ice rink, it’s easy to find something to do no matter what time of year.
The community centers offer many amenities for all patrons to enjoy. With a competitive pricing structure for Lee’s Summit residents and non-residents, patrons will be able to have a membership at all four facilities for the price of one.
The newest addition, Longview Community Center, provides a gymnasium used for basketball, volleyball, pickleball and group fitness, as well as an eight-lane, 25-yard lap pool with two diving boards, a hot tub, a personal training studio, free weights, circuit weights, cardio equipment, aerobics and cycle studios, an indoor walking track and a childcare area. The facility also has brand new bikes to use for free to tour around the Longview area.
Gamber Community Center offers outdoor fitness equipment, a beautiful gazebo on the back porch, bocce ball, croquet, ping pong and billiard tables. The facility also has indoor fitness equipment and a ballroom for rental opportunities!
Harris Park Community Center hosts many of its recreational programs with its three full-sized basketball courts and two multi-use rooms. All of the facility’s spaces are available for rent for parties, team-building events, business meetings, and more!
Finally, Legacy Park Community Center accommodates all ages for all seasons. The center provides a gymnasium used for basketball, volleyball, pickleball, and group fitness, as well as racquetball courts, an indoor aquatics area with a lap pool, leisure pool and hot tub, a personal training studio, free weights, circuit weights, cardio equipment, aerobics studio, an elevated walking track, and a childcare area. It also offers free paddleboards, canoes, and bicycles to rent and take for a ride at Legacy Park Lake or the trails around Legacy Park.
Lee’s Summit has one of the largest aquatic’s facilities in the metro. Summit Waves, on the corner of Jefferson Street and 50 Highway, includes a 906 “action river,” children’s water playground, two water slides, a six-lane lap pool, bathhouse, concession area, expansive deck area, shade structures, and much more. Both season and day passes are available. Family Nights will be on June 10, July 15 and August 5, 2019. There will be games, giveaways, a DJ, and more! The facility is also in the process of developing a wave pool to open next summer.
Lee’s Summit parks are some of the best in the metro. The newly renovated Lea McKeighan Park, located on the north side of Chipman and Douglas Road, showcases an outdoor ice-skating rink (Summit Ice) in the winter and three pickleball courts in the summer. It also offers the newest splash pad, a low ropes course, skate park, four lighted sand volleyball courts, shelter, concession and restroom building, and a .5-mile trail. The park to the south of Chipman features a .6-mile trail, Jungle Gym, Zip Line, open green space for passive or active recreation, shelter, and restrooms.
As for other parks with the splash pad feature, Miller J. Fields boasts Lee’s Summit’s first one and more. With two large playgrounds, three ball diamonds, and two shelters, this is one of the summer’s most popular spots.
Lee’s Summit’s parks are also great for your dogs! Dogwood Park features a spray ground, a comfort station for the humans, and five acres for canines to run around a .3-mile paved trail. Happy Tails Dog Park continues to be popular and includes a human playground just outside the enclosed area, a .3-mile paved trail, an agility area, and a comfort station.
For events and concerts, Legacy Park Amphitheater is Lee’s Summit’s prime entertainment venue. With acts including country stars, Sara Evans, Shooter Jennings, Ben Haggard, fun events like Celebration of the Arts, Jazz artist, Julian Vaugh, and children events like Mr. Stinky Feet and Animals at the AMP; Legacy Park Amphitheater hosts stellar talent from across the world! The facility also is available to rent for weddings, corporate events and more!
Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation has many events held throughout the year at all of their venues. Such events like Night Flight, a 5k run under the stars May 31 at Legacy Park Amphitheater. They also have Tour de Lakes on June 22, a bicycle event that tours five lakes in the Kansas City area starting at Longview Community Center. On July 3 Legacy Blast, a fireworks celebration is enjoyed by more than 20,000 patrons in Legacy Park.
Downtown Lee’s Summit is home to a plethora of local businesses, restaurants, and centers. One of these is Fossil Forge, which Dave Eames started in his garage back in 2003. In 2015, with his next-door neighbors and business partners, he was able to buy a vacant building in downtown LS. This was a crucial step in the growth of the business.
“We now had space to work on a larger variety of projects, but most importantly, have a space that customers could visit and see what we do. Plus, we could be a part of the ongoing revitalization of downtown.,” Eames explained.
Fossil Forge is a design company that makes signage, furniture, sculpture, retail and restaurant decor, railings and gates, and much more. There are three artists who work here creating a variety of objects in wood, metal, acrylic, and other materials.
“We love being a part of the community and neighborhood of Downtown LS. It was the key reason we chose this place to raise our families and start our businesses,” he continued. “Downtown is filled with history, character and wonderful people. There are so many stories around each corner. But it is not stuck in the past; all of us are working hard to guide our neighborhood forward. Downtown LS is a place people care about and protect. We believe it is the cultural and creative heart of our city.”
Another vital part of downtown LS is Bridge Space, which was completed in August 2018. Bridge Space offers tools, resources, expertise, productivity, and the opportunity for entrepreneurs to grow and accelerate their success and gives them direct contact with the broader business community. As an economic development project, this co-working space and entrepreneur incubator was developed in the old, now restored, Post Office in Downtown Lee’s Summit.
Bridge Space not only serves the members of its ecosystem but also the surrounding community and economy. In its first eight months, Bridge Space results have exceeded expectations, and more than 100 businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as thousands of visitors and community members, have embraced it. Bridge Space provides entrepreneurs the resources, community, and confidence to start and grow businesses, which ultimately solves relevant problems, meets unmet needs in society, and creates jobs.
The Bridge Space strategy for economic development focuses on helping businesses grow, creating jobs, and helping entrepreneurs access training to connect to their success. Beyond offering in-demand, flexible office spaces, Bridge Space provides a creative, supportive, and interactive environment for entrepreneurs to access tools and resources onsite to accelerate small-business success. The three full-time staff members at Bridge Space serve as de facto concierges of small-business resources, which are expertly curated and offered by KCSourceLink, MOSourceLink, and other local and regional partners. In addition, Bridge Space members benefit from organic, peer-to-peer collaboration, and knowledge sharing across industries.
Bridge Space owner and president, Ben Rao, served as the project leader, and his vision was clear from the project’s inception in 2015. Rao oversaw the ultimate transformation of a vacant, historic building in the heart of Downtown Lee’s Summit into a creatively designed and purposefully constructed a beautiful, functional community asset. Companies that call Bridge Space home have grown their teams, increased their prices, created partnerships and collaborations, and participated in dozens of free educational programs to learn more about business and to advance their levels of entrepreneurship.
These start-up businesses have become part of a larger entrepreneurial community and ecosystem. In addition to increasing the property tax base of Lee’s Summit, the Bridge Space co-working and entrepreneur incubation ecosystem offers a significant cash influx of indirect economic development into the Lee’s Summit community through its members’ and guests’ patronage of other local businesses. The Bridge Space community buys gas, groceries, and rents or buys housing in the area.
They shop at Main Street retail outlets and eat and drink at local restaurants on their way to and from work. On average, Bridge Space members and guests spend are spending at least $1000/week in the downtown business district. In addition to increasing revenue spent within the Lee’s Summit community, Bridge Space is activating and broadening awareness of downtown Lee’s Summit.
During the 18-month construction period, Bridge Space had hundreds of contractors from more than 40 companies working in downtown Lee’s Summit, and most of those workers ate lunch in downtown restaurants. In April 2019, Bridge Space was recognized by the state of Missouri for the Preserve Missouri Award in Jefferson City.
Bridge Space is supporting jobs and bringing more traffic to the downtown business district. More than 6,000 people have been through the building in the first six months, and in their first year, members and guests will spend more than $100,000. As an ecosystem that houses 75 local business that are in walking distance to Main Street, Bridge Space is committed to attracting, retaining, and cultivating new startups and businesses, creating new collaborations, and fostering social enterprises in Lee’s Summit.
More than 400 hours of conference room time and event space usage have happened in downtown Lee’s Summit, including ribbon cuttings, strategic planning sessions, and city, regional, and national events. Bridge Space is on pace to have 125 businesses in the building by the end of the year, each having between one and six employees. The enticing Bridge Space referral program rewards community members who refer new business to them to receive a gift card to downtown Main Street stores.
“To date, we have purchased about $1000 in gifts cards,” Rao confirmed. “Additionally, Bridge Space is devoted to philanthropy. We have donated space for 50-plus hours of philanthropic events and over $10,000 in donations have been driven from events at Bridge Space. Bridge Space is providing benefits that will aid the economic success for our region and state, but mostly for downtown Main Street.”
Lee’s Summit is also known as one of the most responsive and resourceful business environments throughout the Greater Kansas City Metro Area. Lee’s Summit continues to experience record growth across a wide variety of industries.
Their location offers easy access to points across the United States along with world-class educational institutions which attracts the best and the brightest. So whether you’re looking to expand, invest, relocate or embrace your entrepreneurial spirit, the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council is the first call you should make. Come see for yourself why this community is the perfect backdrop for your business to take root and thrive.
Whatever you are searching for, you can certainly discover it in Lee’s Summit!