About 300 Kansas City area civic leaders are expected to gather Tuesday to hear a progress report on year two of KC Rising, a collaborative effort to improve the region’s growth rate and competitiveness with peer cities.
In brief, there are no big changes from year one in the data that describes the metro area’s output of goods and services, its median household income, and its number of “quality jobs” that pay above the U.S. median.
Compared with 31 cities chosen as Kansas City’s peers based on size, the metro area is settled in the respective 15th, 12th and 12th positions in those three categories.
“Other metro areas aren’t standing still, either,” said Scott Smith, a retired HNTB executive who served as co-chairman of KC Rising’s steering committee in its first year.
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Kansas City’s statistical status in the three categories isn’t bad given that it ranks 16th in population among the peer group. But it’s still a way from the top 10 rankings that KC Rising leaders hope to achieve through an intensive 20-year collaboration among civic agencies, government and education institutions.
There is a bit of a warning in the year two report: The Kansas City region’s real gross domestic product grew 1.2 percent in 2014-2015, compared to 1.4 percent in 2013-2014, as noted in the year one report. When measured in terms of that GDP growth rate — a moving average — the Kansas City area dropped from 22nd to 26th compared to its peer cities.
Similarly, the moving average of so-called quality jobs indicated a slowdown, from 1.7 percent to 1.5 percent in the most recent years available to compare, causing the area’s rank to slip from 17th to 20th.
The numbers are considered a prod to action rather than complacency. But there was a year-to-year bright spot in the moving average of median household income, which grew 2.5 percent in 2014-2015, compared with 0.5 percent the previous year.
The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Mid-America Regional Council, the Kansas City Area Economic Development Council, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce are providing funds and manpower to steer KC Rising.
“We’ve involved 200 business, civic and academic leaders to help look for initiatives to move those big three dots,” said Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who served as the other co-chairman in year one. “We’re creating no new organizations. We’re leveraging the focus of organizations that already are here.”
KC Rising enters its third year with essentially the same goals that were introduced last year: To improve the work-readiness of the area’s population, especially in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields, to increase the area’s net exports, both domestically and abroad, and to assist local entrepreneurs with venture capital funding.
The funding goal was addressed last year in creation of the KCRise Fund which co-invests with established venture capital institutions in early-stage companies in the Kansas City area. The fund, directed by Darcy Howe, has raised $14 million so far.
Leadership for KC Rising passes on March 1 to a trio of chairs: Sandy Price, a retired human resource executive from Sprint; John Murphy, a partner at the law firm of Shook Hardy & Bacon; and William Gautreaux, an executive at Crestwood Equity Partners.
One priority will be to encourage more Kansas City area companies to get involved in exporting, using resources of the Global Cities Initiative, Go Global KC, and the export concierge service available through the World Trade Center-Kansas City.
Another priority will be to focus growth efforts on sectors where Kansas City area already is nationally, if not internationally, competitive — architecture, engineering, transportation, telecommunications, wholesale trade, financial services and agribusiness, including animal science.
Smith said the biggest challenge pinpointed by the KC Rising research “is developing a workforce capable of doing the jobs.”
To that end, the collaboration includes support of Talent-to-Industry Exchanges that bring together representatives of industry and education to help align training with jobs.
KC Rising also touts KC Scholars, a Kauffman Foundation scholarship program for post-secondary education, and KC Degrees, focused on “returning adults” who want to finish interrupted degrees.
Information about those and other collaborative workforce-development programs will be shared at 4 p.m. Tuesday at 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, an office building at the State Line corner.