The Hannibal Innovation Campus: From dream to reality

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The Hannibal Innovation Campus will be at the old Sutherlands building across McMasters from the Hannibal High School campus. The building, adjacent to Aldi, also housed Jacks and Shopko. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. – The Hannibal Public School District publicly opened the doors on Wednesday for the first time of what will become the Hannibal Innovation Campus. 

After more than a year of planning and negotiations, the school district announced the acquisition of 4417 McMasters Avenue, the building that was once Jack’s, then ShopKo and then Sutherlands.

The 88,000 square feet campus will house programs from the Hannibal Career and Technical Center (HCTC), which serves high school students from seven school districts including Hannibal, Marion County, Mark Twain, Monroe City, Palmyra, Canton and Highland.

HCTC programs moving to the Innovation Campus include welding, machine and tool, automotive technology, cosmetology and an expansion of the health services and health sciences programs.

They also plan to introduce culinary arts, hospitality, and tourism programs. 

“If you look at this building and then look at the high school straight across, it’s a perfect location. The accessibility is great for everyone here, and it’s large enough for us to expand those programs–plus some,” Susan Johnson, superintendent of Hannibal Public School District, said. 

The cost of the building was $1.9 million dollars, which was paid through state allocation funds approved by the Missouri Legislature.

Johnson said the funds were thanks to leadership in Jefferson City from State Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal), Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin (R-Shelbina) and Gov. Mike Parson.

An additional $4 million dollars was obtained in federal USDA funds through the help of Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO). Bryan Nichols, communications director for Graves, played a crucial role in relaying the school’s vision to Graves.

The district began discussing the growing need for space at the HCTC before the pandemic, as more kids wanted to sign up for career and technical programs than the current location had space to provide.

During the pandemic workforce needs in Northeast Missouri intensified.

Through a larger campus, the school district hopes also to help local economic development by bringing back the adult education program the HCTC had years ago. 

“We want to get that going again so that we can help not only educate with community outreach, but also help our industry employers to be able to bring their staff and utilize the nice equipment we will have here for training for their workforce needs,” Johnson said. 

Johnson recognized the involvement of past and present board of education members, members of the community and surrounding areas, Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council (HREDC).

Brad Kurz, former vice president of the school board, praised HREDC as “instrumental in helping us make connections with like-minded partners” and helping them identify some of the gaps in services. 

Kurz said HREDC would be an important partner as the school continues to plan and build the Innovation Campus.

“Their contribution will help make this a better project in the end. Not just for student interests but also focusing on gaps our employers need,” he said. 

The school has also worked closely with area colleges including Moberly Area Community College, John Wood Community College, Hannibal LaGrange University and Culver Stockton College.

“Whether it be through the career and technical route or the dual credit and dual enrollment for college, we want to be able to partner with all of them. Those are the conversations we have been having,” Johnson said. 

The building was built in 1989 and first housed two department stores, Jacks and then Shopko. Sutherlands moved into the building in 2004 and closed in 2014. The building has been vacant since.

The current HCTC building will offer space opportunities for Hannibal Middle School or additional HCTC programs.

“I am so excited to see the lasting impact a facility like this can have in this part of our state,” Johnson said. “I hope that when we are here 20 years from now, we will say we were all a part of this.”

Johnson said cost estimations for completing work on the building will start in the fall, and they will need additional funding. They will continue working with the USDA and look into other grants. Several area employers have also reached out to Johnson to suggest working together on the project.

She cited the 2024-25 school year as a possible—but lofty—goal for completion. If not finished by then, she said the following year is her best guess.

Johnson said the Hannibal community is supportive and collaborative.

“This really is an initiative and if we all work together, it can be something amazing,” she said.

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