KC must be a savvy city to prosper
The Kansas City Star
Plenty of intriguing ideas emerged this week in Kansas City during a national summit focused on how to build successful American cities over the next few decades.
But in tight economic times and turbulent job markets, cities must be selective in deciding which dreams they will strongly pursue.
One key takeaway from the New American City conference: Kansas City is competing with cities around the nation and world to attract sharp minds and investment dollars.
The summit occurred, literally, within the cocoon of the stunning Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Cool, futuristic ideas were trotted out by several presenters. Automated cars, anyone?
Unrealistically, the conference all but ignored the importance of schools and crime rates as factors in keeping residents and businesses in a city.
However, the national and local experts did focus on several issues that ought to be high priorities for Kansas City, as well as other large cities that want to prosper.
Blanket urban areas with high-speed Internet service to serve young people, entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.
Invest in pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly downtowns and neighborhoods.
Subsidize reconstruction of long-neglected neighborhoods.
Emphasize the importance of the arts to a city’s economy.
Rebuild streets, sewers and infrastructure to provide top-notch services for residents.
Kansas City gets strong grades on a few of these but is behind the curve on others.
The presence of Google Fiber in Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., was an obvious hit with technology-hip audience members. A trickle of people coming here to link up to Google’s high speed Internet may become a flood one day. If that happens, the region will have earned its “Silicon Prairie” spurs.
Several panelists talked about the need to use technology to cut the costs of infrastructure repairs. Kansas City needs to learn these lessons while looking for ways to reduce its $2.5 billion bill for sewer upgrades.
Kansas City has much more work to do in redeveloping its urban neighborhoods, and its miles of trails and bike lanes are far behind where they should be.
With limited public and private dollars to spend, elected and civic officials must find responsible ways to strengthen Kansas City’s future.