Missouri State Rep. T.J. Berry has been named the next executive director of the Clay County Economic Development Council.
Berry, a lifelong Clay County resident, has served on several entrepreneurship-focused committees in the legislature and is a board member of the Missouri Technology Corporation.
“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 will succeed Jim Hampton, who has led the council since 2001, but the transition will take a few months. Berry will begin on a part-time basis in January, working alongside Hampton until the legislative session ends in May.
Hampton plans to continue serving with Midwest Small Business Finance, an affiliate of the Clay County EDC. During his tenure, Clay County witnessed a major reinvestment in Ford’s Claycomo plant and became one of the largest counties to be certified as an ACT Work Ready Community – an important signal of workforce development.
“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 said. “I look forward to working with T.J. to assure a smooth transition and to help him and Clay County be successful.”
Encouraging up-and-coming companies is going to be a priority for Berry, who has launched four businesses himself.
“We need that growth and creativity so that our economic network becomes more robust,” Berry said. “And if we help entrepreneurs when they are first starting out, we can increase that success rate substantially. If you can do that in your county, you can dramatically improve stable job growth.”