Johnson County’s school funding is more precarious than usual. Homicides are up in Kansas City. And the Royals aren’t going to the World Series for the first time in three years.
This is a good time for Kansas City area residents to pause a moment, take off the rose-colored glasses and look at how our region is doing when compared with others.
No, we’re not going all gloom and doom today. Real progress is being made to revive downtown, attract millennials to high-tech jobs and — in suburbs on both sides of the state line — woo new residents.
But I’ve also just pored over dozens of pages of federal data. They reveal that far too many other metropolitan areas that we are competing with are doing even better in growing population, employment and gross domestic product.
Many of these regions also have successful suburbs like Johnson County. They, too, are adding more housing and office space in their downtowns. Some like Cincinnati even have opened new streetcar lines. Sound familiar?
The bottom line: Kansas City’s political and civic leaders must stay laser-focused on creating a high quality of life in this area to help existing businesses grow and to make this region inviting for new companies, too.
On with the numbers:
▪ According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the Kansas City region gained 16,188 people from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015.
That gave the area 2,087,471 people, the 30th largest of 387 metropolitan areas tracked by the bureau.
Bad news: That was only the 158th best population growth rate among the regions.
▪ The Kansas City area added 78,133 people from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2015, the census reported.
Bad news: That was the 166th best rate among U.S. regions over that five-plus years.
▪ According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Kansas City region gained 14,200 nonfarm jobs from July 2015 to July 2016.
That was a growth rate of 1.4 percent, to record employment in the area.
Bad news: That mark trailed the jobs growth rates achieved by almost every one of our peer areas including Baltimore, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, Portland, San Antonio and — ouch — even St. Louis.
The peers with lower growth rates than ours included Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh.
▪ On Tuesday, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis released statistics showing that the Kansas City region’s gross domestic product — measuring gains in professional services, retail trade, finance and other categories — grew by 1.5 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Bad news: That was only the 187th best rate of the 382 areas surveyed.
Once again, Kansas City fell behind way too many of its peer cities, though not St. Louis this time. It was ranked 212th.
Several civic organizations are pursuing plans that aim to help this region thrive.
The KC Rising effort is a long-term program that aims to increase trade with other parts of the world, boost innovation and entrepreneurship, and attract high-quality employees.
Yet all of these programs would sound familiar to civic leaders in Kansas City’s peer regions. Almost all also are reinvesting in their downtowns, building new roads in the suburbs and crowing about their entrepreneurial spirit.
The Kansas City area has made solid progress in recent years, too. But not nearly enough.