Government Relations Update, 4/30/2010


Kristi Smith Wyatt, Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Policy Development

This week’s focus is the Chamber’s Centurion trip last week to Pittsburg.  The Centurions, the highly successful  young leadership program of the Greater Kansas City Chamber, took 64 of its members on their yearly visit to a U.S. city to study best practices.  (cities of past years include Denver, Austin, Baltimore, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Nashville, Charlotte, Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis.  The account below was written by Christine Murray, a star Chamber employee who coordinates the Centurions.  Applications are being accepted for the 2010-2011 class, due June 1.  For more information on this exciting program, e-mail Christine at

Centurions Take On the Steel City

The Chamber’s Centurions Leadership Program took a few days to explore the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last week. Some of our region’s most promising business leaders traveled east for a whirlwind tour of the city’s transformation. (Even the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review took note!) In a little more than a century, Pittsburgh has changed from a booming industrial town to an economically depressed and politically fragmented region to a revamped community full of arts and culture, education, life sciences, and sustainability initiatives.

Now in its third renaissance, the city faces many of the same challenges as Kansas City. Civic leaders nationwide stood up and took notice of its ways of addressing those issues when Pittsburgh was selected to host the 2009 G-20 Summit. In fact, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is the first of seven chambers across the country to make a benchmarking visit this year.

But benchmarking is nothing new for Centurions. Each year, they travel to a peer or reach city in order to compare Kansas City’s successes and challenges. Some previous locations include Charlotte, San Francisco, Nashville, San Diego, and Indianapolis. Whether they return from sports games, tours of impoverished areas, or conversations with political leaders, they always come back full of ideas and glad to see Kansas City’s skyline once again.

Centurions Hank Stratemeier of United BioSource Corporation and Komal Hatti of Bell/Knott & Associates enjoy a Pirates game at PNC Park, Pittsburgh’s downtown baseball stadium

Centurions had lunch on a balcony of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, which invests in life sciences companies.


Greg Babe , President and CEO of Bayer Corp. and Bayer MaterialScience LLC, explained that Pittsburgh was a perfect fit for Bayer because of its historical proximity to manufacturing and to educational institutions that provided research partnerships as well as trained employees. The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor builds on similar strengths in the Kansas City region.

“It’s not about the $100 million; it’s about the leadership,” said Grant Oliphant, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation. In order to address its failing public school system, the mayor and Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt announced  The city’s largest employer, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, pledged $100 million in funding and matching grants to the Pittsburgh Promise, an initiative whose goals are to grow the population and school enrollment, improve the public school system, and add prepared employees to a diverse workforce.

“I’m a firm believer that in order to be a viable region, you have to have a strong urban core,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. Pittsburgh has worked to build up amenities in the city proper, including a fourteen block Cultural District, a network of bike trails, and recreational riverfront space.



The Bottom Line

Although they came from different industries and fields, everyone Centurions met knew Pittsburgh’s strengths, its key industries, its most viable attractions. Promoting the region’s strengths is essential. That takes collaboration between a lot of key entities. Pittsburgh faces some of the same challenges  Kansas City does in this area – “To go from this side of the river to that side of the river is a big deal,” said Mayor Ravenstahl – but has worked for decades to pull its business and civic leaders together and permanent fixtures in community development. From the looks of it, their efforts are beginning to pay off.

EPA Administrator at EESI meeting

Karl Brooks, the new Administrator for Region 7 of the EPA, was with us for the Energy, Environment, and Sustainability Initiative (EESI) on Tuesday morning. Brooks, who was appointed by President Obama in February, is the head of the one of the ten regions that make up EPA.  He considers himself EPA head Lisa Jackson’s eyes and ears in Region 7, which includes four states, nine federally recognized Indian tribal nations, nearly 500,000 square miles, and 15 million people.  Brooks highlighted two key initiatives.  One, environmental justice, meaning that everyone has the right to a healthy, safe environment.  Second, an expanding the conversation about environmental quality with a greater scope of individuals.

Regarding greenhouse gas regulations, Brooks is not sure whether Congress will establish the framework for regulations or if the agency will establish regulations, which is a legal obligation, under the Clean Air Act.  He also mentioned how the other regions are looking to Kansas City as a model on managing stormwater.


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