• Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Kansas City among the top few of the 50 Best American Cities.
• Travel and Leisure ranked Kansas City at No. 3 on its America’s Favorite Cities list.
• Policom Corp. Ranked Kansas City No. 8 on a list of the strongest economies from 1992-2012.
• PC magazine said that KC is among the nation’s Best High-Tech Cities to Call Home. And, KC was ranked No. 2 on SmartAsset.com’s list of Best Cities for Women in Tech.
• Glassdor.com ranked Kansas City No. 2 on its list of Best Cities for Jobs, and Inc. magazine placed us at No. 6 on a list of seven cities that are better for startups than Silicon Valley.
• Kansas City is ranked No. 4 on Yelp’s Top Places to Eat in the United States
• We’re one of only two U.S. cities to make the Emporis list of world’s top concert halls, thanks to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
• And Kansas City even has the best public high school in Missouri, says U.S. News & World Report, with Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
Roll all those into one big heaping pile of happiness, and then add a World Series champion in the Kansas City Royals, a top-ranked pro soccer team in Sporting Kansas City, and a top-tier NFL team in the Kansas City Chiefs, then ask yourself: Just how good are things in the greater Kansas City area?
Don’t just take our word for it: Lots of outside-the-Midwest viewpoints will tell you that they are Good with what’s happening in KC with that Capital “G.”
But what, specifically, makes Kansas City the place to be? What makes this metro area different from any other when you’re trying to decide where you want to start your career, where you want to start a business, where you want to find employment with bountiful opportunities for advancement, or where you would like to raise a family?
The question is simple, the answers more complex. Some you can put a finger on it and say, “here’s a demonstrable, measureable difference.” Other factors don’t yield the same metrics.
What follows are comments from several respected area leaders. Promotional pitches aside, there’s a great deal of momentum building in the Kansas City region and the
future looks bright.
Bob Langen-kamp, president and chief executive officer for the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City, notes that no two prospective cor-porate recruits are looking to Kansas City for precisely the same reasons. Location, transportation networks, being in the central portion of the country are all keys, he said, “but I think other elements that are starting to become real assets for us are a lot of the momentum—there’s a lot of positive news, not only nationally but even internationally about Kansas City.”
Ronnie Burt, president and CEO of Visit KC, sees that same wave. “I think Kansas City is positioned in very, very opportunistic space right now,” he said.
“It’s a pivotal point from standpoint of building pieces over a decade. Organically, we’re creating a sense-of-wow place to visit.”
Beyond the tourism aspect, he said, “there’s a wave of technology and entrepreneurial activity happening in Kansas City, so I think there’s more of a perception that we’re working on and selling a hot product. That’s very popular right now.”
That hot prod-uct has been throwing off BTUs for close to a decade, since the 2007 opening of the Power & Light District and Sprint Center. “In 2006, I had consultants tell me that no other city and Down-town had 11 blocks under construction simultaneously,” said David Frantze, a real-estate development lawyer and senior partner with Stinson Leonard Street. “I think we made the strides more quickly than anybody, and I don’t know of anybody who has changed the tenor of Downtown as much as we have in so short a time.”
That’s paying off for the entire region, says Rosie Privitera-Biondo, president of Mark One Electric. “Our Downtown is the hub of both the Kansas and the Missouri sides of the state line,” she said. “There’s still really one large metropolitan area, both states feed off of Kansas City proper. If we continue the growth Downtown, that’s vital.”
John Murphy, chairman of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, sees the region as boasting a cost structure that benefits almost any business with national competition. “You can’t talk to a client around the country right now who is not having a lot of pressure put on by their procurement departments, by their finance departments, in terms of trying to get a value proposition they can live with,” he said. “Kansas City does that.”
The risk for this region, he said, is that more outside companies will attempt to get in on the action that his firm has been leveraging for 120 years, without fully committing to being here. “We need more anchor corporations moving into the city; what we don’t need is more back-office operations of anchor corporations that are located elsewhere moving into the city.”
Jon Copaken, of the commercial realty firm Copaken Brooks, said Kansas City’s appeal is starting from the core. “We hear more about companies, especially from out of market, where the first place they are looking is Downtown. For 15 or 20 years, that was not the first place they were looking. We have a long way to go, as we always do, but all the dynamics and activity are really positive,” he said.
The nature of conversations is changing other ways, too. “The energy and the growth and the interests in things Downtown has really changed,” Copaken said. “I was in meeting the other day, talking with people who said the issues that used to come up all the time when working on recruiting here don’t seem to come up any more.”
Scott Smith, former executive with the architectural firm HNTB, is part of an initiative called KC Rising that focuses on regional competitiveness. He too, likes what he’s seeing at the level of recruiting skilled workers, as well as companies.
“We don’t have the beaches and mountains, but how we attract them here, the opportunity to show them the potential for a nice life and career management, that’s how we can keep them here,” he said. “With the wide range of lifestyle options—urban, suburban, now a more livable Downtown—it’s more attractive to Millennials. I feel extremely pos-itive as we look at the macro, the metro GDP, the quality of our jobs, and I see development of lifestyle enhancement as a leading economic indicator.”
No matter what the physical attributes are, no matter what the work ethic of the region, no matter what the cost of living compared to other regions, KChas something else going for it that simply isn’t quantifiable, says Jeff Simon, the office managing partner for the Husch Blackwell law firm.“The Kansas City Spirit, that’s a very real thing,” says Simon, a St. Louis-area native. “It doesn’t take long to come and live here before you realize what that means: You’ve got a community that in
large part is very proud of itself, very proud where it’s going and what it has to offer.”
That quality, he said, may not show up on a spreadsheet anywhere, “but you talk to anybody who has moved here, moved their business here, within six months of being here, they’re just astounded not only by the quality of life, but the fact that people really get along,” he said. “People here generally want everybody to prosper—that, too, is something that you can’t quantify, but once you feel and get a sense of it, it’s very real.”