Progress, but no victories yet, on KC's 'Big 5'
The Kansas City Star
The ‘Big 5’ could really help KC region’s quality of life
The Star’s editorial | Progress? Check. Now let’s see goals achieved
Progress? Check. Now let’s see goals achieved
When will Kansas Citians know the “Big 5” is a true success story? When its sponsors can point to solid achievements that are creating jobs and increasing the region’s quality of life, as originally promised.
That’s not the case — yet — as last week’s reports illustrated during the anniversary of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 announcement a year ago. Consider:
- Champions of the effort to revitalize urban neighborhoods said a full-service grocery store is planned at 27th Street and Troost Avenue. That’s good to hear.
It would be even better to learn customers are flocking to an open grocery that provides residents with access to more nutritional food.
- Backers of the Big 5 plan to make Kansas City “America’s most entrepreneurial city” said they had held many brainstorming meetings among investors, entrepreneurs and others. That’s positive.
It would be even better to hear that the champion of this initiative — UMB Bank president and CEO Peter deSilva — along with other bankers were able to report a large upswing in local loans to startup entrepreneurial companies. That would go a long way toward keeping the chamber’s promise of pumping up the area’s job market.
- University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo Morton talked about the intriguing Big 5 proposal to move the university’s arts programs to a downtown campus.
However, the university still has to select a site and collect tens of millions of dollars to build the project. As Morton noted, that could include treks to Jefferson City to see whether public money will be available for it.
- Supporters of the plan to improve medical research praised the recent designation of the University of Kansas Cancer Center as a National Cancer Institute, which will bring in additional research funds.
Many more positive steps would result, though, when discoveries made locally are leading to cures for patients everywhere, as the Big 5 plan envisions.
- Finally, proponents of an international symposium on innovation in animal health had less news; the tentative date is September, 2014.
No one expected all or even any of the Big 5 to be fully in place by now. Last fall Jim Heeter, chamber president and CEO, vowed that civic officials would aggressively pursue the ideas and continually update the community about them.
Chamber Chairman Frank Ellis continued that theme last week, saying, “We’ve spent this year building the foundations for success — including data collection, research, and fundraising. … The chamber is in this for the long haul.”
The prep work is crucial.
The chamber’s efforts, for instance, have led to formation of a nonprofit group called The Urban Neighborhood Initiative. Next month it plans to release a draft agenda to improve conditions in the first selected neighborhood area near Troost. The proposal intends to include good ideas on how to reduce crime, create jobs and improve schools.
Chamber officials and champions of the Big 5 deserve much credit for the work done so far. Now the area awaits more progress before victory can be proclaimed on these critical initiatives.