Prosperity at a Crossroads: Targeting Drivers of Economic Growth for Greater Kansas City

The Greater Kansas City region has a number of enviable assets: a high quality of life; good jobs in industries as diverse as vehicle manufacturing and financial services; and a predictable and reliable economy for attracting businesses and talent. But these assets can no longer be taken for granted. New analysis on the performance of the Greater Kansas City economy provides evidence that the region is becoming less competitive, weakening its ability to create jobs and sustain higher standards of living.

It is time to take stock of Greater Kansas City’s economic strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

This report finds that:

I. Greater Kansas City, like other U.S. metropolitan areas, is confronting global and political forces that require renewed attention on the core drivers of economic growth and prosperity. To prosper in the face of increasing global competition, new disruptive technologies, and changing demographics, the region must embrace trade, innovation, and talent — the fundamental drivers of growth and opportunity – or risk falling behind.

2. While Greater Kansas City’s economy has held steady, there are troubling indicators in the region’s productivity and competitiveness. The region’s productivity advantage, a historically distinctive competitive edge, has declined relative to the nation. This coincides with a shrinking of the region’s market share of U.S. jobs and output, indicating a weakening in overall competitiveness.

3. Greater Kansas City exhibits strengths in the key drivers of growth and productivity, but the region’s economic engine is not fueling high performance. First, Greater Kansas City specializes in a diverse set of traded sectors, but nearly all are losing market share in jobs and output compared to their peers nationally. Second, Greater Kansas City has a high concentration of high-tech startups and strong patent growth, but these capabilities have not translated into commercial applications among a wide group of firms or led to the creation of enough new firms. Finally, the region has a well-educated workforce, but does not produce enough educated or STEM-qualified workers to keep pace with employer demand.

4. Greater Kansas City’s leaders now face an important opportunity to more strategically bolster its drivers of economic growth so that the region can compete and prosper, generating lasting opportunity for all. Greater Kansas City can organize for success by coming together around a unified economic agenda, focusing on market fundamentals, and engaging a broad group of stakeholders around data-driven decision-making.

This report aims to arm the region’s leaders and citizens with information and analysis to spark an important community-wide conversation about the choices to be made to position the region for continued prosperity.

This report can also be accessed through the Mid-America Regional Council.