Greater KC Chamber leaders see chance to unite region
In an on-the-record schmooze session with media representatives today, Peter deSilva, Greater Kansas City Chamber chairman, and Jim Heeter, new Chamber president, described a regional chamber committed to boosting the fortunes of the Heartland and helping unite the metropolitan area.
To do so, they see the area’s best prospects in promoting its strengths, including life sciences, the animal health corridor and the arts.
And they are clear that the future demands an area that young people will choose to live in as critical to long-term economic health. As studies have shown, younger workers today will select a place to live first, then a job. The arts, a creative community and amenities that appeal to young workers are essential for the KC area to become that “chosen” place.
Among the economic facts gathered by the Chamber:
Kansas City is the fourth most fragmented city among its 37 peer cities, based on the number of local government and taxing jurisdictions. The ranking examines the number of local governments per capita. It takes into account everything from city councils to sewer and library districts.
And that, in a nutshell, is one of Kansas City’s biggest challenges. Given the disparate and sometimes competing parts and pieces, how can the metro area better unite to improve the health of the whole? The area’s peak moment of unity in recent history was the effort to restore Union Station with a bistate sales tax. And it’s a large part of why the Chamber chose to move its headquarters later this year to Union Station, hoping to add more needed activity to the landmark building.
UMB Bank president and Chamber chairman, deSilva, is an example of one of Kansas City’s strengths. The executive transferred here in 2004, and just six years later leads the region’s largest business advocacy group. In many cities, that quick leadership rise wouldn’t be possible. He acknowledges making a few changes to accommodate his new home. For one, a speech school. Just six months into his KC residency, he spoke in Topeka, pronouncing it “Topeker.” An accent adjustment was quickly ordered. Today, his Bostonian “r” is a thing of the past.
And he’s quickly emerged as a transplanted evangelical for collaboration, improved education, job growth and a high quality of life. “We have a great Heartland community. The Midwestern thing…it’s real.”
He’s really out to try to make it better. His enthusiasm and Heeter’s obvious passion for his longtime home city present a strong front for an ambitious agenda.