For years, many viewed downtown Kansas City as a dud for businesses, drab and desolate after 5 p.m.
So for decades now, the pristine acreage of Johnson County and other outskirts of the metropolitan area beckoned corporations with the chance to build office space to suit or expand operations.
But the often cited rationales to flee downtown are no longer true. The Power & Light District, the Sprint Center, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the rapidly expanding Crossroads area have all helped to create a vibrancy that can’t be denied. More than 21,000 people now live downtown, a fact that eliminates any notion that the area is only for 9-to-5 office hours.
What’s needed now is a concerted effort to woo corporations back to the downtown corridor to keep the momentum going.
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Fantastic idea. Brian Jones, founder of Graphicmachine, a digitally focused marketing firm in the River Market, launched the project. Jones relocated here from New York in 2010, drawn by the amenities and business strengths he now seeks to promote to other entrepreneurs.
It’s a plus, a nod to new energy, that the campaign is not being led by the usual voices. The mayor’s office was being told of the effort Thursday.
Through the website, people can make suggestions of companies they would like to see. Beginning July 14, the public can vote online for which companies will make the cut, probably about 15 to 20 businesses, Jones said. Next a letter-writing campaign will ensue.
Jones gives credit for the impetus of the idea to Jon Copaken, chairman of the Downtown Council. In a speech before the council earlier this year, Copaken pitched the virtues of downtown, pointing out that its strengths are readily being seen by young innovators, the very sort of talent the larger companies want to court.
“The leaders and influencers who deny that the move to downtown is real — and is even in their best interest — need to ask themselves why the innovative, entrepreneurial companies see it, understand it and are doing it, both from within Kansas City and from out of town,” Copaken wrote in a February guest column published in The Star.
The idea of citizens wooing a company through a letter-writing campaign is untested. Who knows what the outcome might be when a company learns that Kansas City’s residents, its business owners and a potential workforce are eager to see a relocation or expansion here?
If we don’t ask, we’ll never know.