Posts Tagged ‘kansas city’

The Big 5 Ideas and Their Champions

September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011

Chamber President and CEO James A. Heeter

Chamber Chair Greg Graves pushed the ‘send’ button on an email seven months ago, and that’s what started the journey to the Big 5. He asked 17 friends to convene a “no bad ideas” meeting to talk about goals for the region. I still have that email, in which Greg writes, “Jim Heeter and I either like you, respect you, fear you, or think you’ll offer a unique perspective. I’ll let you guess on that one.”

We wound up convening two dozen meetings, with still more ideas gathered through The Chamber website, during radio appearances, via email and letters and just being buttonholed on the street.

It took seven months to get to the Big 5 – seven months of meetings and discussion with people from all over the KC region, all of them passionate about improving this place we all call home. Our first list of big ideas numbered 182. Here – in no particular order – are the final Big 5:

1.       The World’s Symposium on Animal Health — Champion:  Gary Forsee

The KC Animal Health Corridor, situated between Columbia, Missouri, and Manhattan, Kansas, already boasts the single largest concentration of animal health interests in the world. In fact, KC area companies account for nearly 32 percent of total sales in the $19 billion global animal health market. Holding a global symposium cements the image of the Corridor as THE center for animal health.

2.       The Urban Core Neighborhood Initiative —Champion:  Terry Dunn, JE Dunn Construction

Spurring economic development, preventing violence, improving education in the urban core were ideas that came up at many of the Big 5 meetings. Dunn and Stewart are already meeting with key leadership, organizations and foundations, and hope to have a strategic plan within the next 90 to 120 days.

3.       The Making of America’s Most Entrepreneurial City — Champion:  Peter deSilva, UMB Bank

We’ve got the assets and the history, and, like the Urban Core initiative, entrepreneurship was another consistent idea in our meetings. As deSilva says, better to grow our own rather than try to woo fickle corporations to locate here. Business growth and job creation aren’t coming from the big guys these days; they’re coming from entrepreneurs and small businesses

4.        The KC Regional Translational Research Institute — Champion:  Dr. Patrick James, Quest Diagnostics

The overarching goal here is to make KC a nationally-recognized center for translational research. The five year goal is to raise $60 million to triple the recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) granted to area researchers. “This could be transformative,” Dr. James says. “It’s a force for further economic collaboration… and an engine for economic growth that will touch all parts of our regional economy.”

5.       The New UMKC Downtown Conservatory — Champion:  Leo Morton, UMKC

This “Big Idea” calls for relocating the renowned UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance to a new downtown location. Currently the Conservatory is housed on the UMKC campus in three different buildings that require extensive renovation. By moving the campus downtown, it leverages new and existing assets including the Kauffman Performing Arts Center and the Crossroads Arts District, and grows Downtown.

So, that’s the list. It was, I admit, hard to get to the final five. There were a lot of great ideas from which to choose. But we believe these five goals will create jobs and build a greater community for all of us.

It’s up to the Champions to come up with their plans for implementation. Incoming Chamber Chair Frank Ellis promises regular updates as to our progress on each. So stay tuned – and thanks to all of you who shared your ideas with us.

This has been fun. Now the hard work starts.

Check out the Big 5 in the news and the videos from the Big 5 roll out on ChamberTV.


Regional Business Survey: KC Business Activity Growing – Along With Uncertainty

August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011

David Albrecht, Director, International Programs & Business Research

Well, another six months have come and gone, leaving the latest iteration of The Chamber’s Regional Business Survey bobbing in their wake. As always, the results make for interesting reading, assuming you’re someone willing to devote at least a small chunk of your free time to digging into the percentages.

Two trends stand out in the latest report. First is improvement in current business activity reported by survey participants. This growth hasn’t exactly been explosive over the grand total of five surveys since we kicked off the program back in the summer of 2009. It has, however, been quite encouraging. Two years ago, 40.3% of participating businesses characterized their business activity as “Strong” or “Very Strong.” In the most recent survey, over 57% chose one of these two categories, and these combined totals have increased survey over survey for two years now. Clearly, at least for some Kansas City companies, things are looking up.

At the same time, uncertainty hangs over the survey like fog over the Golden Gate Bridge. When asked whether economic growth in the region was heading in the right or wrong direction, a narrow plurality this time around chose Option Three – “Not Sure” – to the tune of 46.1%. The most popular choice among six alternatives for those asked to name the “Most Immediate Problem for Business” was “Unpredictability of Business Conditions.” And nowhere did business uncertainty show up more clearly than in hiring expectations. Just over 25% of those surveyed expect to have more employees in six months than they have now. This is a meaty drop from the 42% expecting more crowded assembly lines or cube farms just one year ago.

What can we make of this contradiction? That’s a tough call. Kansas City businesses haven’t exactly been standing still since things got weird back in 2008. 28.5% percent have indeed cut staff, and nearly 66% have cut spending. At the same time, 41% have expanded products or services, nearly 55% have increased their marketing efforts and nearly three-quarters have spent more time than ever building up relationships and beefing up their networking.

But with jitterbugging stock markets, political food fights filling the cable channels, and plenty of businesses in a tight fight with a short stick for that next customer, it may be that that inherent Midwestern conservatism for which we’re not too-unjustly famed is inspiring companies to wait and see just a little bit longer.

If you’d like to dig into the whole shebang, just click here and have at it!

KC to Indy – Chamber Leadership Exchange # 8

September 29, 2010

September 29, 2010

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

Early Sunday morning, while the sun is just rising, 100 civic leaders from the area will meet at MCI to depart on The Chamber’s 2010 Leadership Exchange.  Seems like just yesterday, The Chamber began the Leadership Exchange program with a trip to Pittsburg in 2003, followed by trips to San Diego, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Seattle, Nashville, and Denver.       

Each year, The Chamber chooses a city to visit and study best practices, with an eye on bringing those ideas and initiatives for consideration back to Kansas City.  Business, not-for-profit executives, area mayors, area Chamber leaders participate.  This year, the trip includes approximately 22 members of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, led by Burns & McDonnell Chairman & CEO Greg Graves who chairs the trip and becomes the chair of The Chamber in four weeks.   

Graves and The Chamber’s board chose Indy for good reasons and the decision was complicated.  Some “older” Kansas Citians still sting at Indy’s success at attracting – away from Kansas City – the NCAA in 1999.  And then there’s the FFA who also departed Kansas City in 1999 for Louisville, and now resides in Indianapolis.  Some sentimental Kansas Citians, like me, miss the fresh-faced, young students in thier blue jackets moving around downtown each autumn for their annual meeting.  

But there is a reason why many U.S. cities have visited Indy in trips similar to ours the past several years. Even St. Louis, our sister city to the east, took their civic leaders there earlier this year.  Over the past 3-4 decades, Indianapolis civic leaders have been smart, strategic, and unified in setting forth their vision. Here’s a sampling of some of the developments that make Indy so appealing and successful. 

  •  The downtown is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar construction boom that might be the  largest in the nation for cities in their peer group.
  • Indy will host the 2012 Super Bowl.  They raised $25 million to produce the bid.  Today, more than 8,000 volunteers are working to make that event a success.
  • City-County government was consolidated in 1970.  Named Uni-Gov, the reforms continue and area leaders credit the move for much of the success the city is realizing today. 
  • Indy has moved from 33rd to 16th in the convention market, mostly because of the expansion of the convention center adding 420,000 square feet to the mix; for a total of 1.2 million sq. ft.

Additionally a $450 million, privately financed J.W. Marriott hotel will open soon with over 1,000 rooms –the scope of convention hotel  Kansas City leaders have been working toward.  

So there will be much to learn in Indy. And it wouldn’t be possible without the generous assistance of the following sponsors:

Tune in for next week’s blog – to hear about lessons learned!