At the most recent CBIZ Executive Advantage Series, leaders from across the city gathered to learn from local experts who were charged with answering the question: What to Expect in Kansas City in Five Years.
The panelists were purposefully selected to provide diverse opinions based on their respective areas of expertise and covered a broad spectrum of areas. The panel featured moderator David Warm, Executive Director of the Mid-America Regional Council, Dr. Kim Beatty, Chancellor of Metropolitan Community College; Dianne Cleaver, Executive Director of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative; and Troy Schulte, the City Manager of Kansas City, Missouri.
The panelists each shared commons goals for the future of Kansas City and challenged the audience to consider continuous innovation to keep KC on the map. With an aging infrastructure, a population that is geographically spread out and culturally diverse, and a broad range of economic levels from the inner city to the suburbs, there are certainly some challenges to consider. Below are the top five key points discussed during the panel.
1. COMPETITION FOR INNOVATION
All the panelists noted that incredible things are happening in the community. David Warm started the discussion by giving statistics about the future of Kansas City. Of note, Kansas City is growing and expanding in population, diversity, job opportunities, and in educated citizens. Within the next five years, Kansas City will surpass Cincinnati, Ohio as the 30th largest metropolitan area in the United States. With that, however, comes the natural growing pains of a city.
Troy Schulte reminded the audience that most innovative ideas do not come from city hall; they come from the vision of the community. He weighed the need for entrepreneurs and dedicated business leaders to continue to push the needle for generating ideas in Kansas City, which will ultimately enhance the City’s competitiveness on a national scale.
Every major city continues to struggle for how to connect their population with the most efficient and effective public transportation. This key discussion point stemmed from a question David Warm positioned to the group; namely, how do these community leaders address the difficulties that arise from the intersection of people and places? As Kansas City continues to add people into the community, there are natural challenges that surface. Troy Schulte recognized this has highlighted a need for better public transportation across the area, and how he hopes that the next five years will see the completion of a streetcar to the plaza, the opening of the new KCI, and more expansive bus routes. Dianne Cleaver agreed on the necessity of this, adding that many people she works with in the inner city neighborhoods struggle to find and maintain jobs because of the inefficiency of our current transportation system.
3. EDUCATION AND SKILLED WORKFORCE
Dr. Kim Beatty went into detail about the initiatives at Metropolitan Community College to better equip high schoolers and adults with skills that will provide a livable paycheck with or without a four year college degree. Like many cities across the United States, there is a growing lack of qualified trade workers within the metropolitan area, and she emphasized the need for internships and apprenticeships to be supported by the larger community businesses.
4. ECONOMIC EQUITY
David Warm asked each panelist to end with action items for attendees of the seminar, so that people would leave with a sense of responsibility to their community. Dianne Cleaver encouraged the business community to continue their philanthropic efforts, supporting initiatives like her own that aim to eliminate barriers to equity in Kansas City. We must be committed to achieving equity and justice in a manner that honors the unique identity of the communities and citizens in those communities.
5. MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER
Dr. Beatty’s final thoughts posed a task to the audience to think outside the box. Ask the courageous questions; sometimes, the difficult issues are neglected or put on a backburner because people are scared to confront topics that make others uncomfortable. However, it is in these difficult questions that we address pain points and can then work together to eliminate them moving forward.
Troy Schulte pressed for collaboration within Kansas City. Increased collaboration between the business community, political community, education community, and the residents of the city are vital to keep Kansas City moving forward.