Lee Langerock, who has served as executive director of Nodaway County Economic Development for most of the past decade, has announced that she is leaving Nov. 15 in order to begin a new job with a similar organization in Independence.
Langerock said she has been named executive director of the Ennovation Center, a business incubator operating under the auspices of the Independence Economic Development Council.
As Ennovation's new chief, Langerock will supervise a two-person staff at a facility that serves about 30 existing clients and offers entrepreneurs and corporate start-ups culinary development facilities, wet labs and information technology resources.
Beth Savage-Hawkins, chair of the NCED board, said that the search for a new executive director to replace Langerock would begin immediately.
As the primary agency charged with steering economic growth and development countywide, NCED is chartered as non-profit corporation and receives support from both local governments and the private sector.
During her time in Maryville, Langerock has sought to recruit new industries, spur retail growth and coordinate efforts to re-train displaced workers and promote new hires.
Langerock took over as executive director of NCED in 2004 then left in 2007 to serve as vice president of regional business retention for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. She held that job for less than a year before returning to her old desk in the Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce building.
During her tenure here, Langerock directed NCED involvement in development of the 47,000-square-foot Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Northwest Missouri State University, a combination business incubator and academic facility that has hosted a number of start-up operations since it opened in 2009.
Those enterprises have included ChloroFill LLC, which plans to use locally grown sorghum to manufacture plywood-like construction panels at a plant near Burlington Junction, and Missouri Moisture Analyzers, which fabricates quality-control products related to grain production.
Langerock was also involved in the launch of Houston PolyTank in Hopkins, a plant capable of manufacturing the largest plastic tanks in North America using a process that extrudes polypropylene or polyethylene over a heated drum mold.
Another win was development of a $3 million streetscape around the courthouse square that NCED helped finance through sale of $495,000 in tax credits. A similar scheme is being used to extend the sidewalk-and-street overhaul west along Fourth Street between downtown and the Northwest campus.
The newest NCED-backed development is proposed construction of an assisted living facility on the west side of Maryville that would provide 46 upscale units for retirees and create as many as 40 new jobs.
Of course, in the wake of the Great Recession not every local business story has had a happy ending. Perhaps Langerock's biggest challenge since the economy weakened in 2008 has been the loss of the Energizer battery plant in Maryville, which will close its doors in November.
Page 2 of 2 - The end of Energizer will result, or has already resulted, in the loss of about 400 jobs, and Langerock has spent much of the past year helping mobilize retraining and job-search resources for displaced workers.
In an interview this week, Langerock praised the efforts of a community response team, which includes such entities as the Missouri Career Center and Northwest Technical School, and said one of NCED's highest priorities remains finding jobs for laid-off Energizer employees.
Another disappointment has been Carbolytic Materials Company, which moved to Maryville amid much fanfare in 2009. After that, the east-side plant, designed to reclaim a plastics manufacturing agent known as carbon black from discarded automotive tires, caught fire several times due to production glitches and now sits empty after being acquired by a holding company.
Langerock remains hopeful that CMC, which she said still exists as a corporate entity, will eventually find a buyer.
"I don't think the story of CMC is over yet," she said. "They did what no other technology company has been able to do, and I believe there is still opportunity there."
Despite the economic blows Nodaway County has absorbed since 2008, Langerock said she is leaving town confident that the Maryville area is showing solid signs of recovery and will continue to grow.
She noted that the current jobless rate for the county's 12,000-member workforce is 7.8 percent, down from 8.6 percent in 2010 and 8.3 percent in 2011.
"We're coming back from the recession," Langerock said.