Over the last decade or so, Kansas City (KC) has seen remarkable renewal. Like many cities across the nation, it experienced a decline during the last half of the 20th century that was exacerbated by the Great Recession, particularly in its downtown and urban core communities. The City has made concerted efforts to tackle its challenges, in large part driven by Advance KC, a broad strategic plan created several years ago to promote economic, workforce, and housing development, as well as other measures designed to grow the City’s economy, stabilize its population base, and raise levels of local wealth.
The City’s efforts have paid off. Billions of dollars in improvements have transformed KC’s downtown and its immediate surrounding areas. The metropolitan area straddles the Kansas and Missouri state line; its primary downtown is located on the Missouri side. Population has boomed in formerly desolate areas. Real estate projects have proliferated, including the revitalization of the Power and Light retail and entertainment district and the construction of the Sprint Center sports complex. In 2016 the City inaugurated its downtown corridor streetcar, and it has been making transportation investments metro-wide. In recent years the revival has spread from downtown to encompass other neighborhoods as well.
Yet, not all neighborhoods of the metropolitan area have seen their fortunes rise to the same degree, and much of the development has resulted in high-end office and residential buildings, rather than affordable housing. Since Advance KC was last revisited in 2013, KC has elected a new Mayor, who took office in August 2019. Mayor Lucas has vowed to increase affordable housing and public transportation options, make neighborhoods safer, and broaden the City’s economic renewal. Now the Mayor and his new staff want to realize a new vision for the city with a strategic plan that aligns with their goals, reflects innovation, leverages the area’s strong entrepreneurial tradition, and helps Kansas City better compete at a national level.
To support this work, Kansas City and the Office of the Mayor will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive fellow for one to two years to assess KC’s current status and create a new strategic plan reflecting the new administration’s priorities. The fellow will play a crucial role in increasing economic mobility and more inclusive economic development across the City, strengthening entrepreneurship, improving communities, bettering the lives of Kansas City residents, and invigorating the city’s prosperity and strength.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in April 2020, it is proposed that the FUSE Fellow will begin by first becoming familiar with KC’s council-manager form of government and by undertaking a review of the City’s existing economic development practices, seeking to map out current initiatives and identify strengths and weaknesses. The fellow will assess how the development rivalry between the Kansas and Missouri sides of KC has played out and identify existing efforts to achieve greater balance. With guidance from the Mayor’s office, the fellow will interview stakeholders across city government and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDC), as well as among community groups and the private sector, to gauge their perspectives. In particular, the fellow will use their savvy and sensitivity to power dynamics to forge relationships with the City Manager and individuals at the EDC. The fellow will also evaluate the City’s performance across a number of key metrics as compared to peer cities, and identify best practices among those cities that might be adopted for KC.
The fellow will then turn to preparing an updated Advance KC Strategic Plan, relying on both big-picture thinking and a facility for detail. First, the fellow will prepare a high-level vision document for KC based on the City’s objectives that reflects stakeholder input and the fellow’s research. The fellow will follow by using it to create a thorough and holistic implementation plan that focuses on economic development while aligning it with the City’s other objectives; it should incorporate existing initiatives that are working well, as well as new ideas. The fellow will include potential partnerships and funding sources in the plan, and recommend specific policies, actions, and key leverage points needed to achieve the City’s goals, as well as collaborative strategies involving the Office of the Mayor, the City Manager and the City Council. An important focus of the plan will be adding value to disadvantaged communities through strategies such as more intentionally supporting new and small businesses, rather than extracting value from them.
Once key stakeholders have signed off on the plan, and any necessary revisions, the fellow with work with the Office of the Mayor and City Manager to prioritize recommended strategies, in particular identifying initiatives that are most urgent and/or can be acted upon most quickly. At that point, the fellow will oversee the process of generating movement to implement these strategies. The fellow will also help the Office of the Mayor plan for a possible second year of the fellowship, and in any case, set the stage for ongoing implementation of strategies and evaluation of progress. By the end of the fellowship, the fellow will have helped the City launch a new era for KC, with more communities enjoying the benefits of expanded economic development.
- Complete a landscape assessment and forge relationships – Become familiar with the previous iteration of the Advance KC plan, KC’s form of city government, political dynamics, existing economic development initiatives, and the City’s objectives going forward. Meet with Mayor Lucas; the City Manager; members of the City Council, individuals at the EDC, the Kansas City Land Bank and other community development organizations; developers, local philanthropic organizations, non-profits, and community groups. Seek this stakeholder input to determine strengths and weaknesses of the City’s existing approaches to economic development and entrepreneurship. Create a comprehensive map of ongoing initiatives. Conduct a performance analysis of the City across several key metrics in comparison with peer cities (by population and level of economic activity). Research and identify best practices among successful peer cities and identify those that could be implemented locally.
- Create a vision document – In conjunction with City stakeholders, develop a high-level vision for the city informed by insights gained in the first phase of the fellowship. Focus on mayoral, City Council, and city staff priorities and the needs of KC communities. Include the objectives of finding innovative ways of supporting local small businesses and entrepreneurs in all parts of the city and further the ongoing work of coordinating economic development policies and priorities across state lines, in both Kansas and Missouri. Ensure that the document delivers a powerful statement about the City’s goals and commitments. Work to secure stakeholder buy-in.
- Develop a new Advance KC strategic plan – Construct a new, detailed strategic plan that incorporates and builds on existing initiatives that have been successful, as well as fresh new ideas that reflect innovative approaches to expanding economic prosperity. Provide specific recommendations to enhance City support of entrepreneurs, emphasizing minorities and those from underserved backgrounds, particularly in terms of increasing access to capital, technical assistance, mentoring, legal services, and other resources. Spell out strategies and specific mechanisms, along with decision criteria, for broadening prosperity by ensuring that economic development projects benefit the communities in which they are sited. These strategies might include community investment trusts, community benefit agreements, affordability set-asides, tax incentives, bonds, zoning changes, public works, and new ordinances or changes in governance structures. With the help of stakeholders, identify sustainable funding streams, potential sources of support, and federal and state programs that can help the City meet its goals, such as the Kaufmann Foundation, Accelerator for America, and the Opportunity Zone program. Ensure that the plan aligns its economic development strategies with other important priorities, such as affordable housing development and workforce development.
- Begin to implement strategies and ensure long-term sustainability – Define broad parameters of what needs to be done and in concert with the City, prioritize needs and initiatives, helping the Offices of the Mayor and City Manager identify twenty to thirty projects that can be acted on initially. Create timelines and outline collaborative relationships and mechanisms. Oversee the initial implementation of strategies, with the goal of launching at least five projects before the fellowship is completed. Develop a framework for ongoing implementation of strategies that includes metrics for evaluation and periodic review of changing community needs and realities.
- Quinton Lucas, Mayor, City of Kansas City, MO
- J. Herrmann, Director of Policy, Office of the Mayor, City of Kansas City, MO
- City Manager and City Council of Kansas City, MO
- At least 15 years of professional experience creating high-level strategic plans, particularly within economic development. Insights in the workings of city government and politics strongly preferred.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
- Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.