Kirksville economy continues to thrive, city officials optimistic about future

    Over the past few years, the City of Kirksville has seen a boost in its economy, and city officials say that is due to a variety of reasons. (KTVO File)<p>{/p}

    Over the past few years, the City of Kirksville has seen a boost in its economy, and city officials say that is due to a variety of reasons.

    In February 2015, many were concerned with what the future would look like for the City of Kirksville, and Adair County as a whole.

    The local Kraft-Heinz plant had announced hundreds of jobs would be eliminated, and that the bacon production line was being moved out of state to a facility in Coshocton, Ohio.

    But, the elimination of those jobs, which would have resulted in a devastating blow to Kirksville's economy, never happened.

    In December 2015, it was announced Kirksville Regional Economic Development Incorporated (K-REDI), had been in talks with Kraft-Heinz to actually expand the plant and bring new production lines to town.

    Later that month, the Kirksville City Council approved a $229 million expansion project at the facility.

    Kirksville Assistant City Manager Ashley Young says since that time, the economy has improved drastically.

    "Since 2015, the City of Kirksville has been in a period of almost unprecedented economic expansion, and every step of the way, the City of Kirksville has been there and has been a part of that economic expansion. Yes, of course, this growth that we've seen is led by private enterprises, it's led by private businesses, but, we are happy and excited that we were able to use the tools in our economic development tool box to help that growth and help make it a reality."

    In addition to the massive renovation and expansion at Kraft-Heinz, once grassy areas have turned into shopping plazas, and new hotels and restaurants now dot the Baltimore Street Corridor.

    Young says the economic development tools, like incentives and bonds utilized to attract these new companies and retailers, have played a vital role in making Kirksville the place to open up shop.

    "If you think about the over 100 jobs that were created through two hotels, a number of retail and restaurant establishments, those tools, those economic development tools, have made the difference."

    Young adds that the economic development spike would not have been possible without teamwork from other city partners.

    "K-REDI, or Kirksville Regional Economic Development Incorporated or MREIC, the Missouri Rural Enterprise and Innovation Center, and of course, the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Office of Tourism, we all work together as a team to help move our city forward."

    Despite all of the progress that has been made since 2015, Young says there is still more work to be done.

    "We still want to focus on the heart of our community, and the downtown, so we are very excited that the Kirksville Downtown Improvement Committee, or KDIC, is becoming a [Missouri] Main Street Organization. And this is the year, 2019 is the year that the Downtown Revitalization Program is finally, after years of hard work, moving forward and producing results."

    Work is slated to begin in the spring on a number of projects downtown.

    "People are going to see a lot of just incredible improvements in our downtown this year. Not only do you have the Downtown Revitalization Program, but you also have the groundbreaking and construction for the new Sue Ross Arts Center."

    Young adds that area citizens have, at times over the years, questioned the use of incentives. However, he says they play a key role in expanding and attracting businesses and have proven necessary.

    "We had to make Kirksville attractive to them, to expand their business, or to come locate their businesses, and those economic development incentives are how we do that. It's so important because of the over 1,000 jobs that have come to our community, or stayed in our community because of those tools."

    Overall, Kirksville city officials say they are looking forward to a successful 2019.

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