April 26, 2011
Hard to believe, but last week I celebrated my first anniversary as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. The adage “time flies” is certainly appropriate in this case!
It’s been a busy year – the earnings tax election, the mayor’s race, legislative trips to Jeff City and Topeka, support for the KCMO School District, launching the “Big 5,” celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Small Business Celebration, adding exciting new programming for minority business development, and, of course, the move to Union Station…just to name a few of the items on our agenda this past year. Plus the 300 plus meetings and events The Chamber hosts annually.
I’ve enjoyed it all, especially meeting or getting reacquainted with so many wonderful Chamber members. The passion you feel for your businesses and the efforts you put toward bettering our community are impressive.
That community spirit is something that sets this Chamber of Commerce apart from many of its counterparts. As I’ve met with other Chamber leaders this past year – both locally and nationally – I’ve realized that the Greater Kansas City Chamber falls under the somewhat rare category of a ‘civic progress’ Chamber: one that focuses on both growing its member businesses, but also one that is constantly striving to improve the economy and quality of life for the region which we serve.
That’s the spirit behind The Chamber’s “Big 5.” We all recognize that the state line dividing Missouri and Kansas often holds us back. There’s no over-arching political leadership that can speak to the needs of the entire metropolitan area. No goals, no plan, no strategy.
This past year, I’ve been asked numerous times what I’d like most to accomplish as I’ve taken on this new role. My answer: I wish I had a magic wand I could wave and make the state line disappear.
No such luck.
Instead, we’ve decided to go above the state line. We’re asking you to answer this question: What should our priorities be as a region? What can we, should we, accomplish together?
We’ve been hosting meetings all over town with a wide variety of groups to get their answers to that question, and we’re reaching out online to get still more ideas. (Click here to post your ideas or to see what others are suggesting.)
The goals have to be specific and doable, and the suggestions so far have been thoughtful and often exciting: end child hunger in the metro; create a two-week arts festival (a la the Edinburgh Festival) to promote the region’s many and varied arts offerings; target a center city zip code and bring the resources necessary to improve the quality of life there; make KC a Mecca for entrepreneurial business development; become a center of excellence for life sciences research.
The final “Big 5” list will be adopted by The Chamber Board and shared with Governors Nixon and Brownback at our fall Governors’ Summit. We may have specific requests of each, or we may ask them to just make sure the states stay out of our way.
The cynics are already shaking their heads. They’ve seen this before, they say, and there are tons of reports gathering dust on shelves all over the city.
We’ll let them have their cynicism. Meanwhile, with your help and input, we’re getting to work.