Editorial: Strategic focus on partnerships, growth could help Kansas City rise

William Gautreaux, Sandy Price and John Murphy (left to right) will be co-chairs this year for the KC Rising collaboration focused on improving Kansas City’s competitiveness with peer cities.
William Gautreaux, Sandy Price and John Murphy (left to right) will be co-chairs this year for the KC Rising collaboration focused on improving Kansas City’s competitiveness with peer cities.

The problem of silos is well known.

Good people work diligently in their area of expertise but are not aligned with or often even aware of others doing similarly important work elsewhere.

Kansas City has not been alone in facing this dilemma. And our disconnectedness historically has been further complicated by the divides of the state line.

But what if a concerted effort was made to draw the lines, form partnerships and strategically plan for the growth of the region’s economic strength and vitality with a 20-year vision?

Business, civic and educational leaders began that process in the fall of 2014.

They dubbed the massive undertaking KC Rising. Two years in, it’s time for an update.

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KC Rising will provide its second annual report at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the 1900 Building at 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway and State Line Road. The event will be live-streamed.

KC Rising’s overall goal is to be in the top 10 of peer cities by 2025, as determined by population. We’re close in some categories but still have work to do in others:

▪ The Greater Kansas City region ranks 12th in quality jobs. These are defined as jobs in occupations that require at least a post-secondary degree or certification or pay at least above U.S. median earnings of $21.05 an hour, or $43,784 annual salary.

The area has 523,547 of these quality jobs, representing 47.6 percent of the area’s total employment.

▪ We are 15th in gross metropolitan product. Here, the region needs a 15 percent jump in its current GNP of $113 billion to be in the top 10. This is a measure of output of goods and services as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

▪ Finally, we are 12th in median household income ($60,502).

It’s important to recognize that other cities and regions are doing similarly focused work to improve their rankings. Think of these markers as points in a protracted race with many participants, all jostling for positioning.

KC Rising’s areas of focus include education around STEM-related occupations, life sciences, transportation, ways to enhance the region’s global competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship and increasing our human capital.

The issue of financing was quickly addressed as well. The KC Rise Fund co-invests with more traditional venture capitalists to aid companies in the early stages of their development. And that’s just one way this detailed project is circumventing problems that could stymie its overall goals.

KC Rising is being led by committed heavyweights; the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Mid-America Regional Council, the Kansas City Area Development Council, the Kansas City Chamber, along with other regional chambers.

Many of the names involved with this important endeavor are well-known local leaders. They are committing skills honed during their individual careers toward this effort.

Beginning Wednesday, John Murphy, Sandy Price and William Gautreaux will jointly chair the steering committee. They are taking the reins from Scott Smith, formerly of HNTB Infrastructure, and Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. They created a strong start for the initiative.

But we’d be remiss to not note that hundreds of people have been involved so far. It will take that type of disciplined focus to best leverage the region’s human capital to reach its highest growth potential.

With a continued commitment to that goal, the result will be the entire Kansas City region rising.

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