Kansas City Should Rely On Its Strengths
Everyone knows that Kansas City is one of the best places in America to find barbeque, but according to a recent report, it is also among the best in another category: cities best positioned for economic growth.
Business Facilities’ 2019 Metro Rankings Report scored Kansas City in the top ten on its list of major American cities with the highest potential for economic growth.
Kansas City landed on the list based on a few different factors, including the city’s quality of life and cost of living. Researchers at the Show-Me Institute have often urged Kansas City to play to exactly these strengths. Back in 2016, urban policy expert Wendell Cox published a paper walking through the advantages the region offers:
The fundamental question is, “What competitive advantages does Kansas City have over other metropolitan areas, and how can it maintain or expand those advantages?” The answers are clear. Kansas City’s strongest advantages are its low cost of living (the result of superior housing affordability), superior mobility, and a complete array of lifestyle choices. However, each of these advantages could be threatened by policies that currently enjoy favor within urban planning circles.
These factors might not be the most impressive on paper, but they are very important to those choosing to move into or stay in the region. Instead of playing to these simple strengths, Kansas City officials seem to be determined to become the next Denver, Dallas, or Seattle, using economic incentives to build trendier entertainment districts and businesses.
But Kansas City is unique, and has a lot to offer without trying to chase the trends of other areas. People live here for simple reasons like affordability and ease of transportation. A city government that chooses to spend taxpayer dollars on subsidizing things like sports stadiums or streetcars instead of bolstering basic city services is doing the region a disservice.
Kansas City risks squandering its potential for growth if policymakers fail to understand what the city does best. As my colleague Patrick Tuohey has previously stated, “If we want Kansas City to succeed, we need to understand exactly what we have to offer.”