Kansas City International Airport in its current state is magnificent. Living in the Northland, I can leave my home an hour before my flight is scheduled to leave and get there just in time for boarding. After the 20-minute drive and 10 minutes going through security, I am on my flight without having to wait in a suffocating line.
KCI is the least painful airport experience in the country. I love KCI, but it is time to sacrifice convenience for the good of the city.
There is no better place than Kansas City. Amazon would be lucky to have us, and we would be lucky to have it. Look at what Cerner has done. Amazon would have a similar or possibly greater effect.
Bringing Amazon would change the face of our city. When Amazon workers retire, they would teach at UMKC, and that institution would become a fantastic technology school. People would come from everywhere to visit, making all of us rich. Sure, the line for Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que would be even longer, but our city would be cleaner, more vibrant and provide greater opportunity for all its citizens.
After Amazon’s announcement, I was convinced that KCI must change. It has been a good ride, but for Kansas City to attract the biggest companies we need a less convenient airport. Kansas City is the perfect place for a large and crowded airport. We are directly in the middle of the country. If our airport has a higher capacity for travel, it only makes sense for airlines to route more flights through KC.
If we build it, they will come. As some consolation for the larger crowds and more painful experience, we would all get cheaper flights. And we would be able to attract companies like Amazon.
For a large company to thrive, it needs a bigger airport. Amazon needs access to Europe and Asia and regular flights to New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. Our existing companies need more than KCI can offer as well. I was recently on a flight from KCI to Houston, and half the passengers were Cerner employees. A bigger airport would attract larger companies and ensure we keep what we have. Amazon would need more, as Cerner and Sprint already do.
Sure, improving an airport is expensive, but when we attract large companies and the jobs, taxes and people those companies will bring, we all get richer in the long run.
Make no mistake: Spending this money is an investment. But when we put our money back into the community we love, that community becomes better.
Although it may be difficult to trust the city government, if the city messes this up we can and should hold it accountable. If we vote for the city to improve our airport and it goes wrong, we should chase every politician responsible out of office. We are taking a risk, but if the city fails at least we can stop the rot. Putting pressure on the city should help get the job done right.
Kansas City is a town steeped in history and tradition. We have Pendergast, jazz and the West Bottoms with their stockyards of yore. Improving the airport would not take our history and our shared pride away. Updating the city protects its legacy. We live in the greatest city on earth, but maintaining our greatness requires work.
We might not get Amazon, but for our city to grow, KCI has to go.
Brock Foley is an Excelsior Springs native in his second year at the Brigham Young University Law School in Provo, Utah. He spends summers in Kansas City.