A group of Kansas City area business and civic leaders on Tuesday announced an effort, KC Rising, designed to counter the region’s flagging economic growth rate.
The collaboration is reacting to sluggish post-recession expansion revealed in a Brookings report this summer. Data in the “Prosperity at a Crossroads” report indicated that many of Kansas City’s peer cities were outpacing this area in job creation.
It also found that the region’s share of national and global exports was shrinking, some of its historically strong industries were fading and it has few large companies capable of global competition.
David Warm, chief executive of the Mid-America Regional Council, which sponsored the Brookings research, said KC Rising will “paint the arrow to point us all in the same direction, to make our economic development plans intentional, sustained and focused.”
MARC, the Kansas City Area Development Council and the Civic Council, an organization of area business executives, are providing financial and staff support for the initiative.
At this point, there is no budget or timeline for what KC Rising co-chairman Scott Smith called “a collective response to the region’s sluggish economy over the last several years.”
Smith, former president and chief executive of HNTB Infrastructure, and Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center, will lead the KC Rising collaboration.
The effort will focus on three broad development factors — people, innovation and global trade. One target will be to stem the loss of well-educated professionals and attract more of the talent needed to foster competitiveness.
Planners likened the KC Rising goals to regional advances in the life sciences, animal health, logistics and technology sectors. They pointed to the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, the KC Animal Health Corridor, KC SmartPort and KCnext as cooperative, business-development successes in those respective areas.
Organizers said KC Rising also was similar to the “Big 5” priorities of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which emphasize five economic development factors — elementary education preparedness, entrepreneurship, urban neighborhood revitalization, translational medical research and a downtown arts campus.
“There’s a lot left to be decided, a lot left to be done,” Girard told a group of civic leaders. “Our goal is to put a long-term vision in place.”
Planners are assembling a steering committee and three work groups on globally competitive sectors, innovation and entrepreneurship, and human capital. Each will be charged with developing “regional action plans.”
Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, speaking on behalf of government officials in attendance, said KC Rising will be a business-led effort, and he welcomed “business input on how elected leaders can be of service.”
Organizers noted that the KC Rising unveiling was held in Union Station, perhaps the best example of bistate funding cooperation in the Kansas City area.