When the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) cultivated relationships to win the Amazon HQ2 project, community leaders, including Kansas City Missouri Mayor Sly James, stated the region’s real value as “the collaborative spirit” in which two states (Kansas and Missouri), 18 counties and more than 50 communities worked together.

Efforts toward making Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city

Despite the city’s creative bid and Kansas City’s momentum and economic growth, our heartland was not a finalist.

When asked if our entrepreneurial ecosystem and rich support system for contract workers played a part in selling KC to attract new business, KCADC Senior Executive Jill McCarthy acknowledged the trends toward a growing contract labor workforce and the abundance of creative workers in Kansas City; she fell short of stating that Kansas City’s entrepreneurism, start-up support and strong coworking infrastructure were assets used to promote and attract companies to move here.

Are economic development leaders missing the mark in promoting KC?

Jim Hampton, Executive Director of the Clay County Economic Development Center, said that economic development strategies are changing.

“The most prevalent method of getting businesses to move to our communities is to make it financially lucrative for them to do so. I believe the problem with that strategy is that it is not sustainable,” he says.

As an alternative, Hampton suggests the most cost-effective way to build economies is to work with existing businesses in five ways.

  1. Create a business environment and provide related support in which businesses can be successful.
  2. Invest in technology so companies can remain competitive in the digital age.
  3. Offer financing alternatives for small businesses that are not bankable.
  4. Concentrate on a mix of business retention through support as well as new business development.
  5. Offer workforce skill development.

Hampton believes the heavy reliance on attracting new business overlooks a key data point for building communities.

“Community and business development should come from existing business. The statistics show us that 80 to 85 percent of all new jobs come from existing businesses.”

As noted in the KC SourceLink Entrepreneurial Report, “We Create KC: Year 2,” Kansas City has a support network that:

  • Connects entrepreneurs to business-building resources
  • Grooms next-gen talent
  • Improves access to capital
  • Helps shepherd ideas to communication
  • Engages corporations in developing programs to mentor start-ups and solicit innovation

The Huffington Post cited Kansas City as the “#1 city to keep on your radar” and the #10 top city for creatives; BuzzFeed wrote that we are the “city all twenty-somethings should pick up and move to.” Other notable stats include:

  • #2 City for Women in Tech, SmartAsset
  • #4 hot startup city, Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Top 5 City for Entrepreneurs Worldwide, Global Entrepreneurship Congress’ Cities Challenge

With strong resources and an emerging pipeline of forward-thinking talent, Kansas City entrepreneurism remains poised to face the what’s next challenges of the gig economy and changing workforce.

So what do you think, should economic development leaders take a new look at our entrepreneurial ecosystem in promoting our city? Is entrepreneurism the seed of tomorrow’s economic engine? Let us know by commenting on this post, or sending me an email at [email protected]