Time for Business to Get Involved


By Joe Sweeney

This year’s Ingram’s 250 assembly devoted an inordinate amount of time to the issue of violent crime. Let’s do something about it.

That was my take-away on Sept. 7 as we wrapped up the 2018 Ingram’s 250 General Assembly at Husch Blackwell, following more than an hour of spirited—and quite candid—discussion about the causes and potential remedies of the violent crime epidemic that is staining this city’s image nationally.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to gather 30 top executives from high-profile companies in one meeting room to discussed shared concerns, so we highly value their thoughts and frankness. It’s our hope that folks at City Hall and various law-enforcement concerns— police, prosecutors, courts—will also pay attention to what these thought leaders have to say. You can, too, with our report on their discussions at the assembly, starting on Page 17 of this issue.

You know, we started the Industry Outlook series in 2000, focusing on specific sectors that make up pillars of the regional economy and business infrastructure here—construction, engineering, professional services (legal, accounting, HR), banking, education, health care and insurance and many more. In all, we’ve organized and executed more than 250 of these gatherings and ED Assemblies in communities all across the two-state area.

In most cases, the industry-specific focus makes for good business-magazine content, as it provides insight into broader trends affecting those important business silos. The Ingram’s 250 gathering, by contrast, was about the most broadly shared concerns of anyone doing business in any sector here. After an intriguing first hour of exploring emerging opportunities in Big Data, data science, design and engineering, technology, logistics and agribusiness, the discussion turned to a more serious topic.

Credit to co-chairs Brenda Williams and Jeff Simon for steering the discussion on violent crime and its impact on business. Simon, in particular, has been a consistent voice urging the business community to address crime not as a social issue, but as a business issue. And, to be candid, as a moral one, too. Within the lifetimes of a few in the room, and certainly of the parents of everyone at the table, the mechanisms that produced and supported
Kansas City’s racial divisions for a century had plenty of implicit support from the business community.

Simon was right when he declared “this is a business issue.”

As Williams noted, there’s a different vibe in impoverished areas of the city today, something that has changed those neighborhoods in fundamental ways. And that is a widely shared sense of hopelessness. Too many people in
the toughest parts of town have simply stopped trying. They’ve given up. They’ve seen their retail opportunities shut down, their blue-collar jobs pulled out of the urban core, their schools abandon the kinds of training needed for kids who aren’t bound for college.

But participants around the table identified opportunities to restore some of that hope. It can come with public-sector policy changes, like more community policing. It can come from non-profit work in distressed neighborhoods. It can also come in increments from the business community, which can do more outreach to schools, connect and collaborate with neighborhood organizations and causes, invest in those neighborhoods
with facilities and jobs—heck, just start by having lunch there and getting to know, on a personal level, some of the people who could use an ally or two as they fight for a better life in those communities every day.

One of the execs, after the assembly, remarked to me that he had no idea that the violent-crime issue here was as bad as it is. And it’s bad. But he also said that this was a conversation that must continue among business executives.

For too long, we’ve entrusted public-sector institutions to fix something that many of us feel we didn’t break. But we prosper in a community shaped in large part by our forebears in business who profited from pain.

It is indeed a conversation that must continue. And one that must lead to action.

It’s time restore hope to the hopeless in Kansas City. And those of us with long histories of achievement have much to offer that effort.

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher


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