Author Archive

Government Relations Update: A New View at The Chamber

December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010

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

Santa has arrived early at The Chamber! And he’s left 39 Chamber employees with a new office space more beautiful than we could have hoped for … on the west wing of historic Union Station.

At 25,000 square feet, the space is much larger than our previous digs.  Offices are functional and attractive. Most importantly for our members who made this move possible, the meeting rooms are comfortable and plentiful. The design is contemporary, with lots of light and openness. My view is from the front of the station, up the grassy knoll to Liberty Memorial. It’s a keeper. 

The board room in the lobby of the station remains a work in progress, but it will be stunning when complete – all 4,000 feet of it.  Formerly the Harvey House Diner, the board room is located on the east side of the Grand Hall.  And the lobby of the station is such an exciting place, filled with children, families, and today a brass band playing holiday favorites. 

Kudos to UMB’s Peter deSilva, who engineered this move during his year as Chamber chair; JE Dunn Construction; 360 Architects; Superior Moving and Storage; and the many others who helped make our move go smoothly.   

Be sure to stop by when you’re in the vicinity. We’re on the third floor of the west wing, above the post office. It’s your Chamber!

We’re counting our blessings this Christmas.

Wishing you a joyous holiday.


Moving Day: A View of the Past

December 9, 2010

It’s moving day at The Greater KC Chamber of Commerce!   

After almost 20 years of officing on the 25th and 26th floors of Commerce Tower at 911 Main, it’s time to head south a dozen blocks down Main Street  to The Chamber’s new home at Union Station.

At the risk of sounding like Mary Tyler Moore when she and her colleagues left the newsroom for the last time at WGM in Minneapolis, I confess to a bit of melancholy. 

I’ve had the pleasure and honor of a 15+ year career at the Chamber, during which time I’ve observed an increasing strength of membership as well as organizational influence in the metro area.  It’s been my pleasure to work with many of the region’s top business leaders during that time and it’s difficult to over-estimate their intelligence, generosity and dedication to growing the economic viability of our region.    Current Chamber Chair Greg Graves represents that kind of leadership. 

It’s also been a joy to be in the midst of the transformation of downtown Kansas City from a neglected and unattractive urban center to the beautiful, vibrant place it is today where almost a hundred thousand Kansas Citians work, live and play.              

But the jackpot has been the VIEW!  OMG, the view.  My office on the 26th floor overlooks everything as far as the eye can see north of 10th and Main.  Sitting here now for the last time, the view attests to the vitality, economic strength and historic charm of this part of our city.  My office overlooks where it all began in 1850 in the approximate vicinity of the eclectic RiverMarket.  The traffic on I-70….the ups and downs of the Mighty Missouri where Lewis and Clark stopped for rest and exploration….. the rail tracks where trains chug along slowly on the south side of the river…..the very busy Wheeler Downtown Airport for private and business aviation and occasionally Air Force I or II… the just completed ionic Bond Bridge.  On a clear day, I can see the Mamba at Worlds of Fun.

This view has been my inspiration through these years, where each day I looked forward to checking out the view to see what was going on in this great city or watching the ever-changing midwestern weather patterns up close.  It’s been a real treat. 

But as is always the case, good things come to an end.  Like MTM, I plan to be the last one here to turn out the lights.

Mayoral Candidates Appear and Discuss KC

November 10, 2010

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

November 10, 2010

Four candidates for Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri participated in a two-hour joint appearance last night, sponsored by The Citizens Association, Inc.  Based on what I observed during those two hours, the citizens of KCMO have excellent candidates from which to choose the city’s 54th Mayor.

The lively discussion was moderated by Micheal Mahoney with KMBC TV.  The four participating were   Deb Hermann, Jim Rowland, Sly James, and Mike Burke. Candidates were questioned about the  earnings tax,  pension reform, the city’s budget, the city manager, police department funding, crime, public transit, economic incentives, working with the business community, leadership, and many other topics.

The auditorium at the UMKC School of Dentistry was full of citizens and media.  The crowd was anxious to pose questions to the participants.  The city’s municipal primary is Feb. 22; the general election is March 22.

All candidates have a depth of experience in community and civic activism. 

Jim Rowland, a former city councilman from the 4th District, now heads up the Jackson County Sports Authority.  He’s also been a teacher and baseball coach.  “Kansas City needs to be open for business.  We need to re-define the tone to bring business to Kansas City.”

Deb Hermann, current at large City Councilperson from the 1st District in the Northland, said “We need to come together as a city,” Hermann said.  “The Mayor sets the example.”  Hermann chairs the Council’s Finance and Audit Committee. 

Mike Burke, a lawyer, who served as a city councilman from the Northland in the 80’s said he’s worked with five Mayors.  “I know how it works.  I know how to bring people together.”  Burke also chaired the Public Improvements Advisory Committee more recently.  

Sly James, a lawyer and former Marine MP, said “city and neighborhoods need to work in harmony.  I get it.  I’ll get it done.”  He also pledged to reconstruct the citizens committee on municipal revenue to help solve the budget woes currently facing KC.    

It was a revealing  glimpse into the knowledge base, philosophy, and temperament of these four  candidates for Mayor.  I was impressed by what I heard.  Congratulations to the Citizens Association for putting together this substantial forum and to the four candidates as well for a job well done.

A Change of Opinion

November 3, 2010

November 3, 2010

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

Well, it was quite an election day… particularly for Republicans, having taken over the U.S. House and increased their domination of both the Missouri and Kansas Legislatures. 

These elections will have serious repercussions for metro KC. 


Consider the metro region’s clout in the national picture.  Kansas’ senior congressional member is  Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) who was first elected to the 2nd District House seat in 2008.  The 1st, 3rd and 4th Kansas Congressional seats will all be held by freshman.  Missouri’s House delegation survived with the exception of Ike Skelton who was first elected in the mid-70’s.  Former state representative Vicky Hartzler defeated Skelton decisively.  

Next, let’s look at political makeup.  Skelton’s defeat makes Missouri’s congressional makeup 2/3rds Republican.  Russ Carnahan held on to keep his seat in Missouri’s 3rd Congressional district against a tough challenger, Ed Martin, former chief of staff to former Governor Matt Blunt.  And, Republicans now hold all four congressional seats in Kansas. 

The U.S. Senate make up in Missouri and Kansas appears to be virtually unchanged with Roy Blunt soundly defeating Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to move into Kit Bond’s long-held seat and Congressman Jerry Moran leaving his Kansas 1st district seat for the Senate seat previously held by Kansas Governor-elect Sam Brownback.

The newly-elected members of Congress will bring new attitudes to Capitol Hill including a more discerning look at earmarks, which supporters say has provided valuable support and jobs in the greater Kansas City area while detractors point to as an drain on the nation’s resources.  The Chamber’s big work begins today as we strive to build relationships with our new congressional members and strengthen old ties with officials who are moving up in both states.  The Chamber will serve as a valuable resource to these leaders as they learn about the strengths and opportunities in our dynamic region and as they work to understand the key needs of our business community.


Republicans cleaned up in the elections for House and Senate.  Republicans in the Senate will occupy all but 8 seats!  In the Missouri House, Republicans captured 17 seats from the Democrats.  This leaves the House majority to a near veto proof at 106 of 163, three votes short of the 109 needed to override Gov. Nixon’s vetoes. 

Some interesting races

SENATE 34: Rob Schaff (R) won over Martin Rucker (D) by a whopping 15 points.
HOUSE 32:  Incumbent Dem Jason Grill defeated by less than 1 percent to Republican Ron Schieber.
HOUSE 52: R  Noel Torpey defeated D Robbie Makinen
HOUSE 124: Incumbent Democrat Luke Scavuzzo squeezes out a win over Rick Brattin


State-wide:  As expected, Senator Sam Brownback will be the new Governor of Kansas, winning by 63%.  All Republicans were elected to the other state-wide jobs.

House:  Fourteen Democrat incumbents lost their seats, including five from Johnson County and two open seats formerly held by Democrats were won by the Republican candidates.  In addition to there being no more than 34 Democrat votes (two races are still undecided), moderate Republicans took a hit as well, casting doubt that there will be other Democrat/moderate Republican coalitions such as the one that helped advance so many of the progressive policies the chamber supported last year, including school funding, transportation funding, and the 1-cent state sales tax increase which prevented devastating cuts to education, social services, and public safety.

Senate:  Only one Senate special election this year – Terrie Huntington of Johnson County won easily.


Results in Kansas City were interesting to say the least as Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved renewal of the public safety sales tax for additional 15 years, and voted for Prop A (south of the river voters voted against Proposition A, while north of the river voted in favor of it).  This is a highly intriguing dynamic, with northland residents often sharing their displeasure with police, fire and ambulance response times.  Money collected from the earnings tax essentially funds the KCPD’s operations and about ½ of the Kansas City fire department.  If the earnings tax were rejected by Kansas City voters in April, Kansas City would have to make draconian cuts in police, fire and ambulance services, or seek for substantial increases in both property tax and sales tax – which of course is not assured, due to Hancock amendment that requires a public vote on any new tax increase.

Now the real work will begin to retain the earnings tax, a campaign which will run concurrent with the battles for Mayor and City Council in Kansas City.

Public Policy Council Update – October 27, 2010

October 27, 2010

October 27, 2010

A master of the political arena met with The Chamber’s Public Policy Council members last week – and provided an up-close viewpoint of just how much the national political landscape is likely to change following  next Tuesday’s elections. 

John Ashford, founder and CEO of The Hawthorn Group in the Washington, D.C. area is a native of Marshall, Missouri and has participated in years of candidate and issue campaigns.  He was once called a “kingmaker” by the Kansas City Star.  His firm specializes in grass roots advocacy and is an international public affairs company of senior political specialists.   

Ashford regaled the PPC with his comprehensive look at the major elections across the US and a comparison of the leading pollsters’ assessments of the national races.  He called the 2010 elections “A season of changing fortunes,” evidenced by retirement, outsiders’ victories, money and the “Massachusetts Miracle,” Scott’s win in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat. 


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

It’s the Economy Stupid

Seats up for election next week include 37 US Senators, 435 US House members, and 37 Governors.  Almost 60% of the electorate believes the country is on the wrong track.  To make matters worse, President Obama’s favorability is at 44%.   Presidents Reagan and Clinton had lower presidential favorability at the same relative time in their first terms and both recovered and went on to win re-election.  But under those leaders the economy was healthy….53% of the electorate disapprove of the way economic problems are being addressed.  And though economists announced the recession was over months ago, 74% of voters believe, “my recession hasn’t ended.” 

Not surprising, Ashford predicts a Republican House and the Democrats holding onto the Senate – barely.   2010 voter enthusiasm has been trending towards Republicans, with Democrats and Independents struggling to stir voter excitement.  Congressional approval rating sits at 20%, exactly where it stood right before the 2008 elections and five points below the 2006 midterm rating.  Congressional approval reached a 40-year high of 54% in 2001.


Funding Gap

Ashford also pointed out the acute fundraising gap between the two major parties with GOP challengers in 34 key House districts outraising their Democratic incumbent opponents.  According to Ashford, Senate Republican candidates outraised their Democratic opponents by nearly 30% during the July-September reporting period.  And in the key Senate races (including the Blunt-Carnahan race) the Republicans all reported more cash on hand September 30 than the “Ds”.  Additionally, of the top 12 special interest groups/third-party big spenders and the party committees, 8 are supporting GOP candidates with over $89 million invested in Republican races and 4 are weighing in for Democrats with just $43.5 million.  In the week of October 11 alone, Republican special interest groups (including the RNC) outspent Democratic groups more than 5 to 1.

Ballot Issues: Taxes, Pot and Hunting

There are 155 state ballot issues on the November ballot with over 100 of them related to taxes.   There are 450 local tax issues on the ballot throughout the country.  Massachusetts has a ballot measure that will cut sales tax to 3% and reduce state revenue by $2.5 billion, while Colorado has a measure that will slash property taxes and reduce state coffers by $2.1 billion and another that will prohibit the state from borrowing.

Ashford said seven states have hunting expansion measures on the ballot and four states have ballot issues dealing with some form of marijuana legalization.  He predicted that “taxes and state budgets lose (tax reduction measures pass) and hunting and pot win.”

For the complete presentation please click this link.

Elections, Escaped Chimp, and Tiger Homecoming

October 22, 2010

October 22, 2010 – Government Relations Update

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

So many issues to ponder….historic elections in the states that will most likely change the majority in U.S. House of Representatives, possibly the U.S. Senate, and most certainly the policy direction of many important issues in our country.  Then there’s the statewide vote on the earnings tax in Missouri, a measure that could have a major impact on KCMO and St. Louis.  And Kansas City was in the national news this week…..because of Sueko, the pet chimpanzee who rampaged through a KC neighborhood on Tuesday and is now recovering and rehabilitating at the Kansas City Zoo.  Three cheers for Randy Wisthoff and his team at the zoo for taking on the project of caring for Sueko and directing her assimilation back into the animal kingdom.  We’re all pulling for her!

Notwithstanding these important issues, I am distracted by this glorious autumn we are experiencing in KC, particular after the brutal winter and scorching summer.  And autumn in the Midwest equates to changing color of leaves,  a crispness in the air and of course… college football!

I was on the MU campus on Wednesday afternoon and evening.  It was alive with preparations for tomorrow’s big game – Missouri (#11) vs. Oklahoma (#1) in Columbia…..the college game of the week and maybe the season…..first time ESPN’s “CollegeGameDay” has broadcast from the Columbia campus.   On Wednesday, students were hustling to finalize preparations for the talent competition and floats for Homecoming.  They were focused and busy as they assembled their props, costumes and teams.  I got lost on campus and received location directions from a very polite young man who looked like a tiger!    Oh, do you know Homecoming was invented at MU?  The very first one held in 1911.  No wonder it’s such a big deal.

It brings back such sweet memories……of our caravans of the faithful in the 60’s and 70’s from Chillicothe to Columbia for almost all home games, leaving very early and arriving at Faurot Field so we could be among the first in the gravel parking lot for a morning of old fashioned tailgating – picnic baskets of fried chicken, bread and butter sandwiches, hot chocolate for the kids and Jack Daniels for the adults.    Homecoming was especially sweet … Dad always produced huge golden mum corsages with black ribbons for the women and girls.  I wore it proudly and saved it for days. 

Go Tigers!

Leadership Exchange Summary – KC Leaders Weigh In

October 13, 2010

October 13, 2010

Last week’s blog was an “as it happened” account of The Chamber’s 8th Annual Leadership Exchange to Indianapolis October 3-5.  The trip to Indy followed trips since 2003 to Pittsburg, San Diego, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Seattle, Nashville, and Denver.   To date, Indianapolis appears to share the most significant comparables with Kansas City.   The trip details can be viewed at

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

Also, check out this link related to the trip from The Kansas City Star October 11 Kevin Collison article:

Some of our trip delegates have offered their take-aways from this Leadership Exchange as lessons learned which provide interesting food for thought, such as:

Community engagement……
The biggest take-away for me, that is widely applicable to our region, was Indianapolis’ strategy to broadly engage the community around their 2012 Super Bowl effort and build the next generation of committed community leaders.  The examples included the wide number of committees, the pairing of up-and-comers with experienced community leaders, and even the scarf knitting effort – all terrific strategies for broad community engagement and future community leader sustainability.  Dan Getman, President -Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, Inc.

Unigov system……
The power of the Unigov, and the incredible leadership for 16 years by Mayor Hudnut…  This system can help create a longer-term, less “political” focus on getting the big things accomplished over a longer period of time. Eric Morgenstern, President and CEO-Morningstar Communications

Growing the next generation of leaders……
Kansas City needs to do a more effective job of identifying and developing young leaders within the metro.  These individuals will not have the same stereotypes and animosities that have been created over the years by the state line.  They will be active & proactive for causes and initiatives that benefit the entire metro.  Many of our large corporations have strong leaders who are active in community leadership, but that’s the extent of their company’s involvement.  We need to be pulling now from the lower tiers of management in those organizations and gearing them for their future role in leading our community.  Steve Fleishaker, President/Olathe Market- Bank of Blue Valley; Chairman-Olathe Chamber of Commerce

Strategic placement of assets……
Indy was very strong on locating major cultural/sports amenities together with their hotels and convention facilities so that there is a walkable, connected infrastructure for their future.  Once you have separated these assets, as we have done so many times in Kansas City, you spend all of your time trying to figure out how to “connect the dots” rather than how to make those amenities stronger.  Your dollars get stretched and wasted and you still cannot create the walkable environment necessary for success.  The hotel, convention and sports opportunities are very strong when packaged together as in Indy.  To me, this was a stronger community statement than the proclamation of “amateur sports capital of the world.”    Jon Copaken, Principal- Copaken Brooks 

Value of downtown……
My perspective naturally trends toward downtown issues.  When we were at the breakfast in Carmel and the suburb cities were saying they would not poach from downtown, I felt there was a level of respect and understanding that all felt the downtown core was the heart of their region and needed to be strong.  I am not sure I can say that about our region.  Lynn Craighead, Senior Vice President-U. S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation; Chair- Downtown Council of Kansas City

Setting and attaining goals……
Indianapolis knows what industry it wants to attract and goes after it aggressively. This strategy has certainly paid off for their economic development. Kansas City needs to follow suit.  Hon. Jan Marcason, City Councilwoman- City of Kansas City, Missouri

I learned that Indianapolis acted and, as a direct result of acting, they achieved.  Sly James, President-  The Sly James Firm

Based on my experience, I would suggest we need ‘level five leaders’ (Collins, J. GOOD TO GREAT. 2001.) and should shoot for Pockets of Greatness across counties, cities, etc. not totally unifying all efforts in all things.  Kliff Kuehl, KCPT Public Television/Channel 19- President & CEO

I learned that the Indianapolis funder’s collaborative invites representatives from the Governor’s office and Mayor’s office to attend their meetings.  In this way they are theoretically able to better implement a strategic vision for the city in terms of their public/philanthropic investments.  Brenda Sharpe, President and CEO- The REACH Healthcare Foundation

Public/Private Partnerships……
I learned the new, perhaps more acceptable, TIF jargon…”public/private partnership!”   Hon. Peggy Dunn, Mayor-City of Leawood, Kansas

The ability to stay with a priority over a long period of time is critical.  Mayor Dick Lugar’s vision would have died without a Mayor Bill Hudnut to move it forward.   Their biosciences effort has taken a considerable amount of work and funding, and it continues to be a focus, which makes it an attractive investment for Lilly and others.  Also, Craig Brater’s presence, and his ability to work with others, is important to the biosciences.

Having companies, a state capital, a university, and a real retail center in or near downtown makes a difference.  Kansas City lacks the synergy of several parts working together to create a sense of motion from real people.

Having a series of elected leaders with a vision and the ability to get along with others is huge.

Having the metro in one state is important.

Overall, good learnings, but once again reinforces we cannot just try to be what others are. We have to be ourselves.  They did not talk much about all the problems Unigov had in its early years, and there were many.  Having better governmental cooperation in our metro across the state line would make a difference, but they have worked through many of those problems.  Jewel Scott, Executive Director- The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City   

In summary……
Things I learned in Indianapolis
1)       I much prefer Kansas City.
2)       We should appreciate our Downtown and our unique Country Club Plaza.
3)       We must have a strong mayor in Kansas City, MO.  The mayor of the central city should be the lead spokesperson for the community.
4)       The business community needs to coalesce its thinking and lead elected officials.
5)       Focus!  Select a couple of things to be best at and put resources and attention to that.
6)       The importance (once again) of the National Cancer Institute designation for the Bioscience initiative, and that Kansas City should focus on translational medicine.
7)       Think big.
8)       Amateur sports can be big and create lots of revenue for a community.
9)       Peyton Manning can lose once in awhile!

                 Carolyn Watley, President-CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services of Kansas City

Attached is a link to the final list of 2011 Leadership Exchange trip delegates:

The final day in Indy – Day 3

October 6, 2010

October 5, 2010

The final day of The Chamber’s 8th Leadership Exchange to Indy started early and ended with a full flight to KC arriving late yesterday afternoon.  And we even picked up a few prominent Kansas Citians in the

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

airport for the flight home – Father Tom Curran, president of Rockhurst University, and David Sallee, president of William Jewel College, both in Indy for the day for meetings and waiting on later flights.

The morning bus ride to the Monon Community Center in Carmel demonstrated that Indianapolis has a traffic and congestion problem – at least during rush hours.  The panel of regional leaders at breakfast described a level of cooperation that while not perfect seemed stronger than we experience in the Kansas City region.  There are non-compete agreements and an attitude that says what’s good for one part of the region is good for the entire area.

Day Three opened with a Table Topic Breakfast sponsored by AdamsGabbert. Each table featured an Indianapolis business, civic, or government leader answering questions from the delegation on their area of expertise. Dave Lawrence of the Arts Council of Indianapolis discussed the city’s amenities, opportunities, and challenges with a captivated audience. Other breakfast topics included economic development, education, sports, and government consolidation.

A suburban Chamber President said that it is in Indy’s DNA to question change; regionalism is not easy unless there is a crisis.  But the concept of working together is powerful.  One of biggest challenges facing central Indiana is creating synergies.  Transportation/transit issues appear to be the next issue the region must tackle.

Day Three opened with a Table Topic Breakfast sponsored by AdamsGabbert. Each table featured an Indianapolis business, civic, or government leader answering questions from the delegation on their area of expertise. Dave Lawrence of the Arts Council of Indianapolis discussed the city’s amenities, opportunities, and challenges with a captivated audience. Other breakfast topics included economic development, education, sports, and government consolidation.

A lively discussion on regionalism in KC followed the panel discussion.  Bob Marcusse of KCADC said that cooperation in our region makes us more competitive for net new growth from the outside and what’s good for one part of the area is good for the entire area.

Mayor Reardon of KCK/Wyandotte County Unified Government said that Mayors in his area meet regularly and when important development projects came up, they discussed and agreed to share revenue, no matter where the project ended up being located.   He offered a suggestion – that Mayors from both sides of the state line should be meeting together on a regular basis. 

Later was a very interesting presentation on Indiana BioCrossroads, Inc., held on the beautiful campus of Indiana University, Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI).  David Johnson, president and CEO of BioCrossroads, and Craig Brater, Dean, Indiana School of Medicine, presented the state of bio-science development in Indiana.   Life sciences accounts for 23% of Indiana job growth from 2001 -2007.  They have added 600,000 ft of new space; recruited 500 new professionals in last three years. The challenge in 2002 when all this started was to build on base with existing companies, institutions, commercialization, etc. 

Indy has its Bioscience act together! Our final educational session of this year’s Leadership Exchange was held on the campus of IUPUI and sponsored by JE Dunn. We heard from Craig Brater, Dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine and Chairman of Indiana BioCrossroads, pictured here with Margret Bowker of JE Dunn; David Johnson, President/CEO of Indiana BioCrossroads; and, Dan Getman of Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.

Goals were to connect, spread the word, invest and educate.  Indianapolis is home to the 9th largest life sciences corporate employment sector in U.S.  It is a larger sector than Missouri.   It doesn’t hurt that Indy is home to one of the nation’s leading and largest medical schools, I.U. School of Medicine.  Has robust academic requirement. Key federal designations – CTSA and NCI – both are major goals in Kansas; Lilly Foundation is a huge player in life sciences as it is in most important community priorities.  The Foundation has given approximately $260 M.  Lilly became convinced life sciences should be a priority for the city and the state.  None for bricks and mortar. IU Simon Cancer Center gave $50 M.   

David Johnson, president and CEO, BioCrossroads, described the good working coalition with KCALSI and KBA.  To kick-off BioCrossroads, they had to put together a fund of investors; 11 institutions put together a $73 million venture capital fund.  Bio-Crossroads’ messaging and communication is internal to the people in their region, not external, and it is the best, strongest measure for internal growth.  Let’s educate the people of Indy about this exciting new industry so they may better understand the potential and become supporters. 

Craig Brather offered the advice to KC that the philanthropic organizations should come together to provide more support; lessen academic tensions in the area hospitals and think less about individuals and more about collective good.  There’s wonderful opportunity in Kansas City in translational science capacity.  But all this takes a considerable amount of money.  There is realization that amenities are more spread out in KC. They advise that we not rely totally on the public sector because it will only fund certain things. We should find more ways for the private sector to invest. 

Bank of Blue Valley’s Bob Regnier brandishes an ice cream cone in front of Chamber President and CEO Jim Heeter, and Burns & McDonnell’s Greg Graves, Chair of the 2010 trip to Indianapolis, during their free time at the NCAA headquarters.

Indianapolis has done an excellent job at assembling the components for a first-rate life science sector and the results are obvious. KC might be a bit behind Indy, in terms of time and scope of accomplishment, but we’re on our way.  The consensus of the group was that KC should renew its effort to strengthen the life sciences industry here at home.

Read more about The Chamber’s Leadership Exchange, KC to Indy, Day One blog >>

Read more about The Chamber’s Leadership Exchange, KC to Indy, Day Two blog >>

KC to Indy Day Two

October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010

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

Day two of The Chamber’s Leadership  Exchange #8 to Indianapolis continued on a high note.  The day began atop the beautiful Skyline Club which overlooked the city for as far as the eye could see. 

Indianapolis Mayor Gregory Ballard opened the day’s program with a special greeting and message about his city and what makes it successful.  The former Marine said, “Indianapolis is very good at bringing the private, non-profit and public sectors together to get things done.  One of the best things about being the mayor of Indy – every day I see someone or some group doing the best for others.” 

He sees the value of sister cities and international relationships because he says if you don’t see the global economy coming, you’re going to get run over by it.

On Day Two, the delegation woke up to breakfast with the Indianapolis Mayor and a discussion of the city’s vision and sports strategy. Here’s Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm, Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer, Mission Mayor Laura McConwell, Indianapolis Mayor Gregory Ballard, Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn, and KCK/Wyandotte County Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon.

 The morning’s panel on “City Vision, Strategy and Leadership in the World’s Amateur Sports Capital” was kicked off by Ted Boehm, former CEO of the Indianapolis Sports Corporation and retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice who said, in 1975 there was an agreement that three things were needed: 1) repopulate the central business district; 2) build a major university; and, 3) develop people-generators.  And they settled on sports as a way to accomplish these goals.  “Sports set the bar that Indy can do whatever it wants to do as long as the city is pulling together,” Boehm said.

Susan Williams, current president of the Indiana Sports Corporation said sports changed the way we looked at ourselves.  Further, sports is a vehicle for attracting and attaining young talent to help grow strong roots in the community. 

Allison Melangton, CEO, 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee, described the city’s process for their successful bid for the Super Bowl, which entailed securing $25 million of commitment with no promise of anything in return.  120 companies comprised the bid pack with contributions ranging from $10,000 to $2.5 M. 

Monday afternoon found half the delegation on a bus tour of the affluent Indy suburb of Carmel, Indiana, led by its charismatic Mayor Jim Brainard. Carmel boasts the sixth highest per capita income of any city in the United States.

Comments from the Kansas City contingency included one from Hannes Zacharias, county manager of Johnson County, Kansas, who said “I hope our vision exceeds our current grasp.”   Denise Kruse, president of AdamsGabbert, added “Don’t wait for the ‘Big Event’ to engage our young people.”

Later at Indy’s historic Union Station (which pales in comparison to KC’s) we heard from two former deputy mayors… John Krauss and Steve Campbell.  In 1976 there were 60 governmental units in Marion County.  Uni-Gov, the consolidation of Indianapolis with Marion County, was approved by the state legislature in 1969 and adopted by Marion County in 1970 for the purpose of improved and more efficient service delivery.   School districts in Marion County are not consolidated…they have 11. 

Two young civic leaders, Michael Huber, deputy mayor for economic development to the current mayor and David Lewis, an executive with Eli Lilly and Company spoke about the Indy model for public-private collaboration.   They highlighted the establishment of a team of experts from area companies who volunteer their time to troubleshoot on thorny issues and help local governments improve process an procedures.  They reportedly saved the city $400,000 by streamlining the city’s bus pick-up and drop-off procedures.   

The discussion about the combined sewer issue in Indy sounded familiar.  Recently the city entered into a consent agreement with EPA for $3.1 B which was a considerable reduction from the original estimate.  A lively discussion on the cost of correcting combined sewers was summed up by Clint Robinson, of Black and Veatch who said “the solution to pollution is dilution.”

Later this afternoon, 50 attendees visited the affluent city of Carmel, north of Indianapolis, on a tour led by Mayor Jim Brainard.  Carmel has the sixth-highest per capita income in the U.S.  It was also the home of The Palladium, a 1,600 seat performing arts center that serves the region.

Don Welsh, president of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and Scott Blalock, GM of the JW Marriott, discussed the success of the tourism industry in Indy.  Clearly investment in the infrastructure is way ahead of the pay-off to the city.  Tourism in Indy amounts to over $9 B.  The new jewel of downtown, a 1,005-room J.W. Marriott convention hotel will open in February.  The city is hoping that quality hotel availability combined with the sports focus and clear city vision will continue to bring meetings, conventions, and tourists to their city.  Rick Hughes, CEO of the KC Convention and Visitors Association remarked on Indy’s success and noted that KC had not had any significant addition or major improvement to its hotel properties for over 20 years.

Sly James of the Sly James Law Firm, Justice Ted Boehm, former CEO of the Indianapolis Sports Commission and retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice, and Mike Burke of King Hershey, continued the day’s discussion at the Big Kids Reception and Dinner at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum sponsored by Burns & McDonnell.

Burns and McDonnell, represented by president and CEO Greg Graves, welcomed Leadership Exchange participants and guests to the dinner his company graciously hosted.  Held at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the dinner was fun and festive and guests wandered through the facility, the world’s largest and considered by experts to be the nation’s finest and most successful, with a budget of $25 M; 250 employees; established in 1925.

It was a memorable day.  Indianapolis has truly made most of its assets through community collaboration and a united vision.  Tomorrow – Day 3.

Read more about The Chamber’s Leadership Exchange, KC to Indy, Day One blog >>

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KC to Indy Day One

October 3, 2010

October 3, 2010

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

Approximately 100 Kansas City-area residents arrived at KCI early on this chilly Sunday morning to embark on The Chamber’s 8th Leadership Exchange – to Indianapolis.  Business leaders, mayors, chamber of commerce executives, and not-for-profit leaders spent day one seeing the highlights of the city and hearing an overview from area leaders. 

Bob Kipp climbed into an Indy Car for a souvenir photo opportunity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

We deplaned in Indy’s new state-of-the-art airport, then proceeded to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where we visited the museum and took a ride around the track, at a speed slightly less than Indy race cars. 

Later, we met up with former Mayor and U.S. Congressman Bill Hudnut, who is credited with laying the groundwork 25 years ago for the success Indy enjoys today.  Mayor Hudnut, along with a panel of civic leaders, educated us on what makes Indy tick.

“The private sector provides the continuity that helps us adhere to our regional plan,” said Roland Dorson, president of the Indy Chamber.  “Collaboration here is a big deal.  We need to be assertively aspirational.”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is celebrating its centennial in 2011. Leadership Exchange delegates Charlotte Barksdale of LaserCycle, Christal Watson of Truman Medical Centers, Mark Jorgenson of US Bank, and Laurie McCormack of Park University enjoyed learning about the history of this prestigious motor sport.

Ron Gifford, president of the Indy Partnership, (equivalent to KCADC) said three big challenges were 1) underfunded public services; 2) wealth moving outside the city and 3) education – great schools located down the street from struggling ones.  Yes, Indy has its challenges, but the civic community believes it is nothing that cannot be fixed. 

The panel expressed concern about a diminished property tax base.  Correlation between taxes and services is not always apparent to the taxpayers, said Carolene Mays, Commissioner of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.    

There was a discussion about privatization of services – city has already sold toll roads, and parking meters.  Discussion is now centering on the gas utility purchasing the water services function from the city.

We heard strong support for referendums – expensive but they seem to work here in Indy.  In Missouri there is talk that there are too many referendums.

Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Colts, was funded by a regional tax in 2006.  State and local leadership combined to put forth a proposal to pass a food and beverage tax to pay the bonds.  Counties that passed it kept half of the proceeds.  Only 2 counties did not pass.

Our delegation asked the question, What Makes Indy Work? And these folks gave us the answers. Pictured here are Chamber President and CEO Jim Heeter, Chamber Chairman Peter deSilva of UMB, Carolene Mays of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, Indy political talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz, and Indianapolis Chamber President Roland Dorson.

On education trends, the Dewayne Matthews, VP of Policy Strategy for the Lumina Foundation, presented some provocative new statistics and trends in secondary and post-secondary education. 

The Lumina Foundation is a conversion foundation with $1.2 B in assets.  Its guiding principle is that education has the power to transform people’s lives and the goal is to increase the proportion of Americans with high quality degrees and credentials from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2025.

The problem is described as this: the U.S. used to be No. 1 in the world for young adult population that had completed college, and today we have slipped to 10th.  The top four countries are now Korea, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.  Current annual production in Missouri of degrees is 50,181.  To reach 60% in 2025, we need to increase degree production by 5,713 each year.  In Kansas, current annual production of degrees is 25,223 – to reach 60% by 2025, we need to increase production of degrees by 2,001 each year.   

Matthews went on to say that education beyond high school has become the only way to get to the middle class.  Over 60% of American jobs will require post secondary educations by 2018. 

For more information on this fascinating topic, visit the website at  

The day ended with a steak dinner and KC relationship-building sponsored by UMB at the 100-year-old St. Elmo Steak House. It was a perfect ending to a busy day, and left us hungry for more of what tomorrow will bring in Indianapolis.

Read more about The Chamber’s Leadership Exchange, KC to Indy, Day Two blog >>

Read more about The Chamber’s Leadership Exchange, KC to Indy, Day Three blog >>