I just returned from the Liberty Memorial, where the Greater Kansas City Chamber unveiled the BIG 5 Ideas. Leading up to today’s announcement, the Chamber held several meetings, including a number of “No Bad Ideas” meetings where ideas were solicited from the community. In July, I participated in a voting meeting in which the ideas were whittled down to about 20 and presented to the Chamber board. Board members continued to vote and refine, culminating in this morning’s unveiling of the Big 5 initiatives and their champions (or chairs).
The following is from a just-issued Chamber press release:
“The Big 5 build on strengths we already have regionally,” said Greg Graves, Chamber Chair and Chairman & CEO of Burns & McDonnell. “Taken together, they propel the community forward, enhance our quality of life, and create jobs.”
“We started with 182 big ideas,” said Jim Heeter, Chamber President and CEO, “and now we’re down to five. It’s been an evolutionary process – and gratifying to see the passion for our community and interest in collaboration.”
“The Chamber gave birth to the Big 5. The Champions will bring them to fruition,” said Frank Ellis, incoming Chamber Chair and Chairman & CEO of Swope Community Enterprises. “They’ll bring other folk in to help devise and implement the tactical milestones to success, and the Champions will report back on a semi-annual or quarterly basis. This is a community-wide effort – and it lights you up.”
The Big 5 are (in no particular order):
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.
Organizing and hosting a global symposium on animal health will establish the KC Animal Health Corridor as the premier location for that industry. This idea leverages our existing animal health, nutrition, and bioscience assets.
Jim Heeter, President and CEO of The Chamber, and Bob Marcusse, President and CEO of Kansas City Area Development Council, will work closely with Forsee and his group to organize the international conference. The Chamber, KCADC, and the KC Area Life Sciences Institute already manage different aspects of the Corridor.
2. The Urban Core Neighborhood Initiative — Co-Champions: Terry Dunn, President & CEO, JE Dunn Construction Group, & Brent Stewart, United Way of Greater Kansas City
You can’t have a hole in the regional doughnut. And as former Chamber Chair John Bluford (Truman Medical Centers) said during the Big 5 discussions, “Poverty is the number one negative factor in determining the health and health mortality of the general population.”
Jackson County’s poverty rate is high when using the official formula – 15.4 percent of the population. That number is higher still for what most experts consider a more accurate measurement of poverty (200 percent of the federal poverty level). Use that measurement, and Jackson County’s poverty rate is 34.2 percent.
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. Violence is one critical area of focus, along with education and economic development.
3. The Making of America’s Most Entrepreneurial City — Champion: Peter deSilva, Chairman & CEO, UMB Bank
“With the list of assets we already have,” deSilva says, “we are already credible in this space.” The Kauffman Foundation and nationally recognized Bloch School are just two of those assets. Add in the region’s history of great entrepreneurs and Kansas City could be considered a cradle of entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurs have the vision to grow,” deSilva adds, “and that’s where business growth is. This is about ‘growing your own,’ rather than trying to lure other companies here.
“The companies that grow up here, stay here,” he says.
4. The KC Regional Translational Research Institute — Champion: Dr. Patrick James, Sr. Managing Partner, Quest Diagnostics; Chair, Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute
The overarching goal 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.
Thanks to the grant, researchers and clinicians from KU Medical Center, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute will collaborate with colleagues from across the bistate region to create a new multidisciplinary translational research network.
“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, Chancellor, University of Missouri-Kansas City
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.
The goal here is to raise the dollars necessary for the move ($50 – 80 million) and to set targets of 2000 students and a Top 10 ranking for the Conservatory within five years of opening the new campus.