The Clay County Economic Development Council has named T.J. Berry as its incoming executive director. Berry will begin part-time in January to work alongside 17-year veteran Jim Hampton. The two will work together through May while Berry completes his service as state representative in the 2018 legislative session. Berry will then assume full-time duties as executive director. Hampton will remain with the EDC’s affiliate organization, Midwest Small Business Finance.
Berry said the expansion of the EDC’s entrepreneurial efforts is a likely priority. “We need to focus on growing what we have while attracting every new company we can,” Berry said. “I want to focus on helping people avoid mistakes when they start their business, so their chance of success goes up. And I want to make sure we promote the good things in the Northland so that when outside companies pick Clay County, people will want to set their roots here.”
Berry noted that incoming businesses and local organizations like hospitals are important, but many of Greater Kansas City’s largest employers began as entrepreneurial startups, including Cerner, Hallmark, H&R Block and Garmin.
Though best known for his public service as a state representative since 2010, Berry is also an active entrepreneur. He began his first business while a student at the University of Central Missouri and since then has successfully launched and operated three additional businesses. His current efforts include helping found and grow Enginuity World Wide, a Missouri-based organization focused on innovative solutions for material engineering in the bioeconomy.
As a legislator, Berry has served on multiple committees related to economic development and now chairs the Committee On Innovation And Technology. He is a board member of the Missouri Technology Corporation where, over the past five years, he has helped invest over $30 million into business development.
Hampton is one of the longest-serving economic development directors in Missouri. Having led the EDC since 2001, he dramatically increased efforts in areas from workforce development to strategic planning. Under his leadership, the EDC helped create numerous affiliate organizations such as the Northland Education and Business Alliance, the Angel Investor Network and the Doniphan Leadership Institute. He helped turn a major challenge into a dramatic victory when Ford cut operations and then, with local and state support, invested over $1 billion and virtually doubled its local workforce.
Last year, Clay County became one of the largest counties in the nation to achieve Certified Work Ready Communities recognition. Clay County today is one of Missouri’s leading regions in terms of employment and job growth.
Despite the accomplishments, Hampton said it’s time for both he and the EDC to move on. “I have really enjoyed my time with the EDC and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the organization, but I am at an age where I want to spend more time with the family,” Hampton sad. “I look forward to working with T.J. to assure a smooth transition and to help him and Clay County be successful.”