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Northland CAPS student Alex Beffa recently presented information on changes coming to healthcare to members of the Clay County Economic Development Council’s Strategic Initiative committee. Beffa, a student at Staley High School, researched information as part of work to better plan for changes coming to the Northland job scene.

Northland CAPS student Easton Meister focused on information about changes coming to the automotive industry to members of the Strategic Initiative committee. A student at Smithville High School, Meister conducted his research as part of the EDC’s long-range business development and employment planning.

Students Help Strategic Initiative

Members of a Northland long-range planning group recently heard a report on the dramatic trends and challenges facing two key industries.

Delivered Nov. 8, the reports were unusual from several perspectives. The information was only the latest in a series of long-range planning projects conducted by Clay County Economic Development Council’s Strategic Initiative. And the two presenters were easily the youngest people in the room.

Alex Beffa and Easton Meister researched and presented the reports as part of their studies in the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS). Beffa, from Staley High School, and Meister, from Smithville High School, were among several of this year’s nearly 400 Northland students working with area businesses and organizations. Teamed with the EDC, Beffa and Meister researched trends in the healthcare and automotive industries, two of Clay County’s largest employers.

“We gained from the students researching this as part of their CAPS work,” noted EDC Executive Director Jim Hampton. “And the Strategic Initiative Committee received in-depth information on important trends impacting area businesses.”

Healthcare Revolutions

In healthcare, Beffa collected data documenting the increasing advance of technological change. “That will accelerate and greatly change the industry,” he said.

The changes will have immediate impact, such as the ability to cure more diseases, but will also alter the industry’s structure and employment. Hospitals may ultimately be less in demand because of the possibility of a doctor or specialist “consulting” via technologies such as video conferencing or devices like an Apple Watch that provide remote telemetry. Emerging businesses are likely to include virtual clinics or even “porta-docs” using such wearable sensory devices.

Beffa said information points to several actions needed to stay ahead of these changes. “An immediate step might include a push for more use of technology today,” he said. “And it would be good to look for doctors who are comfortable with technology. Digitizing records should be completed.”

Automotive Drivers

Meister said two enormous changes facing the automotive industry are already in the news: electric vehicles and autonomous (driverless) vehicles. Both are closer than many realize. As in healthcare, the trends will bring many side effects.

“Repair of electric cars will create new jobs and industries, while also dislocating current jobs and industries,” he said.

Autonomous vehicles are more likely to see widespread adoption sooner, probably starting with trucking fleets. Some have forecast real-world use within five years.

“There is no near-term threat to Claycomo,” Meister said of the Ford plant. “But change is coming.”

Some trends are surprising. Electric cars are in more of the concept stage in the U.S., but China is pushing electric vehicles in order to combat their significant pollution problems. Because China is already the largest market in the world, that will dictate worldwide trends.

Several Strategic Initiative members noted that at least in the short term, job loss from such shifts could be dramatic. Other members suggested training and other programs to help with these shifts in employment as much as possible.

“This exercise is to stay ahead of the curve,” Hampton concluded. “We want to make sure we’re not sitting here 10 years from now wondering what happened.”

The meeting was held in the EDC offices with over 35 people present. The group will next meet Dec. 13 and begin to form task forces to look further into these two industries.

Clay County Economic Development Council
7001 N Locust ST, Gladstone MO 64118
816-468-4989 |

Platte County Economic Development Council
11724 Northwest Plaza Circle
Kansas City, MO 64153
816-270-2119 |

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