Were No. 7!
By Keith Chrostowski
The Kansas City Star
That may not sound all that good. It puts the Kansas City area behind Austin, Texas, Jacksonville, Fla., San Francisco, Raleigh, N.C., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Oklahoma City. But we are well ahead of more than 40 other metropolitan areas.
The ranking supports what should be a key boast about Kansas City -- that its one of the top areas in the country for growth in the professional, technical and scientific services sector.
What should be good news for the Kansas City area economy springs from a survey by Mark Schill of Praxis Strategy Group.
The survey compares the growth of each areas professional services economy over various periods since 2001. It combines that with location quotient that measures the concentration of professional service jobs in an area compared to the national average, and comes up with an index ranking the area.
The survey was prepared for an article by uber-demographer Joel Kotkin in the online magazine newgeography.com entitled, The cities winning the battle for the fastest-growing high-wage sectors in the U.S.
Kotkin focuses on the broad category of professional, scientific and technical services because it has been a relatively stellar performer, expanding some 15 percent since 2001.
In contrast, he writes, employment dropped over 20 percent in such lucrative fields as manufacturing and information-related businesses...over the same period, and finance and wholesale trade experience small declines.
The average wage in this key sector, which includes computer consulting and technical services, accounting, engineering and scientific research, as well as legal, management and marketing service, is a whopping $90,000.
Growth in the professional services sector, Kotkin writes, increasingly shapes the ability of regions to generate higher-wage jobs.
Driving the growth of professional services are the secondary explosions being set off throughout the economy by the Internet, by globalization and by the increasing proportion of younger workers.
The results of Schills survey, Kotkin points out, show a surprising trend that Kansas City is part of: Much of the growth in professional services is occurring outside the big metro areas of the Northeast, California and the upper Midwest.
Just one of the big metro areas made the top 10. Since 2001, the San Francisco area, at No. 3, has seen its professional services sector grow 21 percent.
Its location quotient -- the concentration of such jobs compared to the national average -- was 1.97, second only to the nearby San Jose area, Silicon Valley itself.
The Kansas City areas numbers, putting us at at No. 7, are impressive.
Since 2001, our professional services sector has expanded by 24 percent. In just the last year, Schill said in an email, it has grown by 8 percent, second between Austin and San Francisco.
Our location quotient is 1.24, right at the national average for all metro areas. But Schill says its one of the fastest-growing in the country, ranking fifth.
Schill, with a bit of understatement, said that its not accurate to consider Kansas City a backwater for professional and technical services. Its now up to par with other metropolitan areas and is gaining ground faster than most regions.
Kotkin outlined reasons for the vibrancy of the inland metros. Technology allows people and companies to do their work anywhere, and while the coasts have inherent attractions -- cultural amenities, good schools, basic infrastructure and, yes, beaches -- taxes are high and housing expensive.
Professional service companies and entrepreneurs, Kotkin notes, know now that their success doesnt depend on being in or near a world-class city.
Thats something many Kansas City area companies already know. But we sometimes undersell that fact.
Not every metro area has a Sprint, making it a telecommunications hub. Or a Garmin, the worlds premier GPS company. Or a Cerner, a health information technology leader.
Or huge engineering companies like Black & Veatch and Burns & McDonnell. Or cutting-edge architectural firms like Populous, 360 Architecture and others.
Or a Stowers Institute for Medical Research and a growing bioscience sector.
Or a Hallmark and Andrews McMeel, serving as building blocks for a creative and publishing class.
The business schools at UMKC Rockhurst are nationally ranked, while the Kauffman Foundation is the countrys foremost center fostering entrepreneurs.
And in recent years a host of midsized and small technology companies have sprung up. Handmark, for instance, based in downtown Kansas City is one of the countrys biggest app makers.
(Want to keep up with the Midwest technology scene? Check out the news and networking site: http://www.siliconprairienews.com/)
And, then, theres Google Fiber, a signal to the world about the vitality of the Kansas City area.
The fluidity in the professional services sector that technology allows will only increase the competition among metro areas for such jobs.
That means improving our roads, school systems, public safety, cultural attractions, downtown areas, suburban hubs, and our diversity. And even our sports teams.
Its only going to become ever-more important for the area to continue to make itself attractive to companies and people looking to set up shop here.