“Kansas City deemed ‘America’s next hot destination’ in new report.”
That recent headline is the same kind of headline I used to love seeing years ago when I consulted with mayors across the nation.
And, honestly, as a proud Kansas City transplant of more than 20+ years, I still love seeing these headlines about my adopted hometown. Every city aspires to be the next destination.
Even though the headline is gratifying, I humbly submit that we need to take a different approach. The questions that pop up are typically “who is next” or “are we next?” when it comes to being “the next hot place.”
Instead, we should all be asking, “What is next for our city?”
At the Kauffman Foundation, we spend a lot of time thinking and working toward that question.
That question demands us to honestly look at both our innate talents and our opportunities for improvement.
- What does our city do well, and how do we build on that?
- What does our city need to improve, and how do we get there?
As a foundation, we collaborate with mayors and other elected officials, our grantees, and civic leaders to first listen to our communities and then co-create stronger approaches to supporting a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development.
In doing so, we believe we can help cities provide opportunities for all so that people can achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography.
Becoming “The Next Hot Place”
Of course, every mayor I speak with wants their city to grow – to experience the excitement and be called “the next hot place.”
We’ve seen waves of this over the past few decades with the comeback cities movement of the 1990s – where places like Boston saw rapid revitalization and metros like Denver, Austin, and Nashville experienced explosive growth in the 2000s.
Kansas City has been on a path to becoming “the next hot place” for a while now.
And why wouldn’t we be on that path? We’re making way for a new airport, billions in new infrastructure, large corporations like Panasonic, a bustling entrepreneurship scene, and even opportunities to host both the NFL Draft and the World Cup over the next few years.
Many of us living here watched in the 1990s and 2000s as other cities had remarkable growth.
Truth be told, we were jealous of what many of our then-peer cities became – aspirational cities. You know the ones: The places Chambers of Commerce fly leaders out to, to learn about a city’s path to success.
Those who came back from those trips and stayed here over the years continued to write Kansas City’s next chapter – even when nobody was reading.
So, now that we have a little momentum and our full potential is within reach – what’s the worst case for Kansas City? Is it that we miss out on growth and population increases?
The worst case is not planning ahead for growth and inevitable population increase, while connecting our current Kansas Citians to opportunity.
Foundational Support for the Next Great City
Right now, our community is working through many systems-level issues that other cities are also struggling with – crime, homelessness, fractured transportation, new business growth, uneven workforce participation, and inequitable educational opportunities.
Those issues will become more intractable if we don’t get ahead of the curve and work together across government, philanthropy, business, and neighborhood leadership.
The good news in Kansas City is that leaders at many levels are pushing for the changes we need to grow our city so that more people benefit from the attention.
At the Kauffman Foundation, we focus our work on supporting people whose opportunities have been limited. We begin with racial equity because we believe achieving it benefits everyone:
- Better job and career pathways
- A stronger and fairer economy
- More resilient communities
- A better quality of life for all
As a result, new businesses and a stronger number of skilled individuals can drive regional economic growth.
- Where your potential is not limited by your ZIP code or your color
- Where you have easy access to transportation and affordable, quality childcare
- Where you are safe walking in the day or night
- Where you can start and grow a business without barrier after barrier
- Where students have strong foundational learning and the opportunity to connect with employers in the real world in a meaningful way – even before high school graduation
So, instead of becoming the next hot city, our hope is that we become the next great city.
That is what is next for our city.
I’m confident that if we work together across sectors, we can make that hope a reality.
What’s next for yours?
The Kauffman Foundation helps unlock opportunities for all so that people can achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography.
About the Author
Larry Jacob is the Vice President of Public Affairs, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.