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Report: Kansas City Economy Lags Behind That Of Other U.S. Cities


The Mid-America Regional Council presented a sobering assessment of the Kansas City area economy Thursday, one showing the metro is having trouble bouncing back from the recession.

The report, called "Prosperity at the Crossroads," says that fewer than half of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, including the greater Kansas City region, had recovered all the jobs they lost during the recession by the end of 2013. 

Data in the report show that Kansas City employment rates, wage growth and job growth are all down.

The authors of the report argue the situation demands a unified, targeted approach to improvement.

How we compare

According to the report, which draws on research by MARC, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and UMKC, the Kansas City region has declined compared with other U.S. cities in many important areas since 2000.

"New analysis on the performance of the Greater Kansas City economy provides evidence that the region is becoming less competitive," the report states.

The region boasts more high-tech starts up than the national average but many fewer new patents per worker. Sprint alone accounts for 41 percent of the patents granted.

The report also says Kansas City area employers have a hard time finding qualified workers for highly skilled jobs, in part because well educated workers have been leaving the region to find work elsewhere.

In all, only two of Greater Kansas City’s traded sectors — areas that bring in revenue and income from sales to other markets — have increased market share in both output and employment, according to the report: manufacturing and professional services.
Finding solutions

MARC suggests that the area focus on helping to build on its strengths, including manufacturing, professional services, finance and insurance, transportation, information technology and wholesale trade.

The report says Kansas City’s efforts have been hurt by cross-border competition. The region’s economic development efforts are fragmented between 119 cities, nine counties and 50 separate economic development agencies that fight over jobs even as the region's economy declines.

Metropolitan areas like Chicago, Portland and San Diego are driving unified efforts to build their economies to compete globally. MARC calls for a similar approach across metro Kansas City to stop its slide.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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