Kansas City development agency will undergo major reforms

Mayor Sly James on Friday won unanimous approval of an overhaul of the city’s primary economic development agency that gives him more authority and establishes clearer policies to a sometimes unpredictable, developer-driven system.

The changes adopted for the Kansas City Economic Development Corp. resulted from a review that began two years ago by AdvanceKC, a committee of public and private representatives established by James. It’s the biggest reorganization since the development corporation was established in 1987.

The key recommendation approved by the EDC board is to reduce its membership, usually between 35 and 47 members, and replace it with a nine-member body, with the majority of the members appointed by the mayor.

Bridget Williams, the current corporation chair, described the meeting at which many of the board members were about to vote themselves out as “unique.”

“It’s taken us two years to get to an economic development model that’s structured and user friendly,” she said.

The intention of the overhaul is to create a single entry point for developers seeking incentives instead of the current multiple development agencies, allow a more thoughtful review that reflects the city’s development priorities and steer more investment to underserved areas.

James said it will allow the city to more actively guide development instead of reacting to what developers bring to it.