Posts Tagged ‘the chamber’

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.

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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!

Next Steps for the Big 5

July 26, 2011

July 26, 2011

E. Frank Ellis, Chairman & CEO Swope Community Enterprises, and The Chamber's First Vice-Chair

Dreaming of what can be has been an enjoyable experience, but now comes the hard part.

As you know, we’re working to determine The Chamber’s “Big 5” goals for the region. We started by asking the question, “If you were CEO of ‘Big KC,’ what goals would you set?” We collected ideas from the Web and from about two dozen meetings with elected, civic, and business leaders across the region.

On July 12, we held an all-day session where many of those same people helped us pare the list to 20 Big Ideas. It was no easy task, but the discussions were both thoughtful and animated. (Here’s a link to a video from the seven-hour session and a small photo gallery of the day.)

Now we’re preparing for August 29, when The Chamber Board will make the final decision. Chamber Chair Greg Graves has assigned me the task leading a task force to handle the next phase of the process.

The group will include the 24 community leaders who convened our original “No Bad Ideas” sessions. The easy part, I think, will be selecting the “Big 5” ideas we’ll recommend to the Board. More difficult but critical will be quantifying what success looks like.

We also need to find a “Big Champion” for each of the ideas. For some of the ideas, it may be appropriate for The Chamber to take the lead, but there are some initiatives on the list that are already underway. In those cases, our role will be to bring to bear the not-insubstantial resources of the regional business community.

That’s the plan. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Something’s Got to Change

September 1, 2010

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

As I mentioned last week , Congressman Cleaver made one of his regular visits to The Chamber recently. The room was packed as it always is for him. He was particularly somber as he provided an update on national developments – and if that wasn’t depressing enough, then he moved on to the rancor in Washington among legislators and the parties which is worse than he’s ever seen it…. in danger of destroying our country…… an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude.

As a result Cleaver said, progress is stifled and the focus is keeping the majority – at all costs. While he admitted that most of his colleagues shared his concern, none had a remedy. It doesn’t sound like much fun. No wonder so many legislators are calling it quits. Perhaps it’s quit or be defeated in November. A Pew survey conducted in the spring ranked the favorable rating for elected officials at 25%! Probably worse now. Further, the survey indicates that a majority of Americans see members of Congress, as opposed to the system, as the problem. Comments from the public include; they only care about their careers, are influenced by special interests, are willing to compromise, and are profligate and out-of-touch.

To make matters worse, Cleaver also pointed to a lack of understanding among citizens about basic civics. Many refer to him as Senator and often confuse the rules of the Senate and House, where the operating rules are very different.

Personally, I witness the anger, rancor, some call it hatred – –every day on talk radio and TV. It gives me a headache. Cleaver’s observations are right on target. So what can be done about it?

Is there a role the business community can play, after all they provide the bulk of the contributions?

What about a national alliance of ministers?

Would schools and PTAs be effective in emphasizing civics?

What about taking a lesson from two cordial Irishmen, President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill who after a legislative disagreement on a mammoth scale in the 80’s would get together at the White House to share a drink and discuss how to proceed.

How about Emanuel Cleaver as national minister of civility?

Don’t know the answer, but for the good of our country, something’s got to change.