Kim Curtis has been with the Grandview Chamber of Commerce for 27 years. She retires the end of September. Photo by Liz Ogle.
By Kathy Feist
“People see the Chamber doing all the fun things – parades, events, networking, lunches–and they think it’s a party every day,” laughs Kim Curtis, outgoing President of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce. “But on the serious side we are very involved in economic development and advocacy,”
In fact, on this particular day, Curtis had just testified before the Kansas City City Council on the Climate Protection Act, preferring to see a slower rate of change that would not damage small businesses.
For the past 27 years, the roles of economic developer, business advocate and event planner will soon be in the past as Curtis retires from her position as President of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce on September 27th.
Curtis began working for Grandview’s Economic Development Council on November 1, 1994. She brought with her experience from jobs at the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce.
Since Curtis started her job with Grandview, the city has seen a renewal.
Once known as one of the fastest growing cities in the state of Missouri after Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base opened in 1952, Grandview had lost many of its residents and businesses by the time the air force base closed in 1994.
Times were tight for the City of Grandview. In 1999, Curtis took on the dual role of both director of the Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Economic Development Department. She had the unenviable task of both retaining and recruiting businesses in Grandview. Eventually the Economic Development Council contracted out the position.
In 2006, she returned to her role as director of the Chamber of Commerce and worked with city leadership to revive the business community.
One of the projects Curtis is particularly proud of includes the $6.4 million revitalization plan for Main Street in the mid 2000s. The Chamber spearheaded town hall meetings, formed groups, oversaw historic preservation and created publicity. Curtis still volunteers on weekends to pick up trash or trim bushes to maintain Main Street.
In 2015, the Chamber pushed hard for the city to consider a bid from a new developer for Truman Corners, now known as Truman Market Place. In the end, the chamber’s “Red Campaign” won out and Red Legacy Development took over ownership. “We felt it was time for something new,” says Curtis. “It is a very popular destination now.”
In 2004, the Chamber was instrumental in wooing the packaging manufacturer St. Gobain Calmar to relocate from Kansas City to Grandview’s former House of Lloyd toy manufacturing plant. Now known as Silgan Dispensing, which produces plastic dispensing products such as spray bottles, the company has over 1000 employees.
The Chamber was also instrumental in getting Sika Corp. to open a plant in Grandview in 2000. A manufacturer of automotive parts and sealants, the company employs around 300 people.
On the fun/party side, Curtis had a part in starting an annual music festival in 2003. Initially called Jazz at the Corners, it has evolved into Bands at Byars held in late August.
While Curtis is proud of her role in Grandview’s renaissance, she does not take credit for it. “Everything we do in Grandview is a team effort,” she says. “And I think that is part of what has contributed to my longevity in that position. It’s not about me. It’s not just the chamber. It’s everybody working together.”
Liz Ogle, who will replace Ogle as President of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce, says Curtis’ caring personality is also a factor in her longevity. “Her dedication to helping both seasoned and new business owners has helped mold the business community,” she says. “She always gives without needing anything in return.”
Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones agrees. “Kim has worked for decades to support and grow Grandview businesses. She’s been at the forefront of the City and the amazing growth we’ve seen over the past decade,” he says. “The City is grateful for her years of leadership and we wish her a very happy and blessed retirement.”