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Marvin Hunt, dean of business and continuing education at KCKCC, stands in front of the newly renovated Innovation Center. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Aug. 27 to unveil the new facility on the KCKCC Campus. (KCKCC photo)

Marvin Hunt, dean of business and continuing education at KCKCC, stands in front of the newly renovated Innovation Center. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Aug. 27 to unveil the new facility on the KCKCC Campus. (KCKCC photo)

by Kelly Rogge

After months of renovations, Kansas City Kansas Community College is celebrating the opening of its new Innovation Center.

The Innovation Center is a space reserved for students and community members who want to learn about starting a business, get support for their innovation or ideas and dream about their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Located in Room 3619 in the Flint Building on the main KCKCC campus, 7250 State Ave., the space has multiple uses including a computer lab, conference space and an office space with smart board and data projection capabilities.

“Individuals using the space will benefit from support through consultation with faculty, staff and community experts,” said Marvin Hunt, dean of the business and continuing education department at KCKCC. “Setting aside a space for creativity and innovation activities aligns with KCKCC’s emerging entrepreneurial image in the greater community. I hope that the innovations that are born or grow in this space will surprise me and help me learn new ways in which individuals benefit.”

KCKCC held a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration Aug. 27 where members of the community as well as KCKCC students, staff and faculty were welcomed to look inside the Innovation Center to see what the space has to offer.

Hunt said one of the training and consultation opportunities the center will be holding is for startup businesses through the college’s affiliations with the Kansas Small Business Development Center, the Kauffman Foundation and the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurs.

“Workforce grows because new businesses are born and succeed. We want to contribute to this growth,” he said. “We will engage in development of new or midstream businesses, tech businesses and main street-lifestyle businesses. Also, I am very interested in learning more about how we can help people protect their intellectual innovations which power their business ventures.”

Hunt said the center started as a dream and a vision from KCKCC’s workforce team. He said the idea is to shift the focus toward entrepreneurism, along with a training competent.

The renovations were funded by a $40,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation the center received in December 2013. The foundation was started in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, focusing on supporting brick and mortar projects.

Over the years, it has awarded numerous grants to nonprofits in the Kansas City region including the Kansas City Zoo, the University of Kansas Hospital Cancer Center, Kansas City Public Television, the Nelson Gallery Foundation and Cristo Rey Kansas City High School.

“We visited with other higher education institutions to learn how they were developing their programming. The first Innovation Summit in 2012 started some movement in this direction,” he said. “We created the Innovation Center and designed and funded Innovation Niches (the nice furniture for students you see in the hallway outside of the Business Division). Then we attained funding through the Sunderland Foundation to remodel the center as it stands today.”

Hunt said the Innovation Center will help KCKCC adapt to the needs of the community while also pushing the boundaries of higher education. He said by dedicating resources to the center, KCKCC is supporting those students and community members who wish to grow their ideas into a sustainable business.

“I find that when I ask our students how many of them want to be their own boss or own their own business, many hands in the room fly into the air. I believe that people thrive when they create. The yearning to own the idea, be autonomic, be your own boss, and see your baby grow, is at the heart of the need for our community,” Hunt said. “I want to see a very active entrepreneurial community in which people are freely sharing innovations, supporting each other’s growth, and finding the resources with our help. Also, I want to create deeper agreements with partners who will create additional pathways and resources for our clients, partners, and students.”

For more information on the Innovation Center, contact Hunt at 913-288-7659 or by email at mhunt@kckcc.edu.

University of Kansas community health and development research staff are on the ground in Wyandotte County helping build healthier communities one tienda — or neighborhood store — and restaurant at a time.

KU’s Work Group for Community Health and Development is enacting the Health for All Food Retail and Restaurant Initiative with the Kansas City-based Latino Health for All Coalition. The project aims to increase access to healthy foods at existing mom-and-pop stores and restaurants in neighborhoods where food retailers with fresh produce, eggs, whole grain and dairy products are scarce or nonexistent. Five stores and restaurants in the predominately Latino 66101 ZIP code joined the initiative in August, its first month of operation.

The effort to improve nutrition in Wyandotte Country is one of the health promotion strategies by the coalition’s Nutrition Action Committee with technical and scientific support from the Work Group. The ultimate goal is to reduce diabetes and cardiovascular disease among Latinos in Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County who are disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma and other health conditions.

Kelly Harrington, a community mobilizer with the KU Work Group, has assisted tienda owners Graciela Martinez, proprietor of Abarrotes Delicias at 3137 State Ave., and Irma Ruiz at El Poblano Mini Market at 1003 Osage Ave. in becoming Health for All Food Retailers. She advised them on product placement, pricing strategies and promotion through store signs and social media. She also helped the store owners locate a wholesale produce outlet and secured refrigerators and produce display units for them.

“We work with the owner or manager to develop a plan to incorporate more healthy food items in the store after we do an interview and store inventory,” Harrington said. “We then present them with several options that fit the goals and capacity of the store and agree on the required actions, timeline and resources that will hopefully boost their sales and attract new customers as well as increase opportunities for members of the community to choose healthy foods.”

These options include stocking cold bottled water at eye level in the soft drinks case, offering low-fat milk, eggs and whole-wheat tortillas, and prominently displaying and offering discounts on produce.

Martinez of Abarrotes Delicias even added her own personal endorsement to the Health for All display of fresh fruit in her store: “Tu cuerpo es tu más precida posesió asi que cuida de él” — “Your body is your most precious possession, take care of it.”

The Latino Health for All Coalition is also approaching Latino restaurant owners about becoming Health for All restaurants by encouraging changes such as labeling existing healthy menu items, offering more baked or broiled options and allowing customers to order half-servings at a reduced cost.

“We want to understand the impact that these changes have on the food environment,” said Vicki Collie-Akers, associate director of health promotion research for KU’s Work Group on Community Health and Development. “We will be examining how many people are reached or experience these changes and how these changes improve the overall landscape for accessing healthy foods in Kansas City, Kan.”

Launched by the KU Work Group in 2009 with 40 community partners, including El Centro, K-State Research and Extension and KU Medical Center, the Latino Health for All Coalition also promotes physical activity and access to health services to address Latino health disparities in Wyandotte County.

During its five-year history, the coalition has brought about more than 65 new programs, policies and practices in the low-income, predominately Latino areas of Wyandotte County, Collie-Akers said. Along with the Health for All Food Retail and Restaurant Initiative, the group has guided the creation of a community garden, four school and 25 residential gardens; conducted 84 nutrition education outreach sessions; launched physical activity classes at four churches; established a youth soccer league and converted an underutilized park space into a soccer field.

The Latino Health for All Coalition is funded by grants to the KU Work Group from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas Health Foundation, the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the University of California–Los Angeles Health-by-Default REACH project.

- Story from University of Kansas

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Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kan., will add Jose Pepper’s Mexican restaurant and Eddie Bauer Outlet this fall.

Since its founding in 1988, Jose Pepper’s has grown to more than 13 restaurants in Kansas and Missouri with 25 years of experience creating Mexican food.

A new location of the Jose Pepper’s Mexican restaurant will open in Legends Outlets this November in the 6,200 square-foot space next to Cavender’s Western Outfitter at 1847 Village West Parkway, Suite K131.

According to its website, Eddie Bauer is “an active, outdoor company rooted in the Great Northwest . . . outfitting the world for almost 100 years, and are passionate about inspiring and enabling (customers) to get outside.” Established in 1920 in Seattle, Eddie Bauer is a specialty retailer that sells sportswear, outerwear, footwear, gear and accessories for the active outdoor lifestyle.

Eddie Bauer Outlet will open this November between J. Crew | crewcuts and OshKosh B’Gosh at 1813 Village West Parkway, Suite Q116, occupying 3,964 square-feet.

The Legends Outlets at I-70 and I-435 in Kansas City, Kan., has nearly 10 million visitors annually and 110 unique designer outlets, retail and dining options.

Eddie Bauer Outlet and Jose Pepper’s will join other recent additions, including the only area sweetFrog and Pizza Studio, Bath and Body Works, Woody’s Automotive concept, full-service Nail Envy spa and the Coach Factory pop-up location.

Other designer and outlet shopping options including the only area outlets featuring current fashions at Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, J.Crew | crewcuts, Under Armour Factory House, Nike Outlet, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Cole Haan and more. Dining and entertainment include the local Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen, STIX Sushi, the local Chiusano’s Brick Oven Pizzeria, Yard House Brewery and the only area Dave and Buster’s.

“We think our customers will love how these newest additions help round out and complement the incredible shopping, dining and personal services already available at Legends Outlets,” said Jessica Bachtel, marketing director of Legends Outlets Kansas City.