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Kansas City Unveils 'Export Concierge' Plan

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s economy hasn’t bounced back as quickly from the recession as similar U.S. cities.

Many metro-area businesses are unaware of global export opportunities in their own backyards.

Those findings and others from a 2014 report commissioned by the Mid-America Regional Council startled Kansas City’s business community into action.

On Thursday, the World Trade Center Kansas City unveiled a four-pronged export strategy with a focus on small and mid-sized businesses.

“The untapped opportunity here is those mid-sized companies that have a unique offer into the global marketplace but haven’t had the internal capacity to identify that,” says Marek Gootman, a Brookings Institute fellow working with the KC Global Cities Initiative.

The export plan calls for “export concierge” administered through the region’s existing chambers of commerce and economic development programs. The idea is to connect businesses wanting to enter foreign markets with companies already providing export assistance.

“Kansas City is where other mid-sized cities in the United States have been. There are support systems in place, there are service providers, and generally those people are doing a good job. The challenge is being able to proactively reach the firms that are going to be the most beneficial,” Gootman says.

But the metro might have one advantage other cities don’t: the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is used to working across a state line to ensure regional prosperity.

“Working closely with the regular economic development organizations in this region and having those organizations think about global is a fundamental change,” Gootman says. “That does not happen consistently among economic development groups in the United States.”

Also Thursday, JPMorgan Chase announced a $125,000 grant to provide export concierge and microgrants to Kansas City businesses looking to expand globally.

The goal is to connect 20 companies a year to export assistance providers for the next five years.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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