Posted by: Nancy | February 20, 2011

Can Do!

I’m seeing signs of positive activity in Kansas City, and to my eyes, it looks like a new confidence and a new healthy dose of the can-do attitude. Maybe it’s the beginning of a transformation.

My evidence?

Maker’s Faire. Coming to Kansas City, June 25 and 26, at Union Station. Organizers are expecting 100-200 participants, a good start. I’ve written before about the power of makers, the honor of the craftsperson, and the attractiveness of the maker movement. Now it’s becoming a respected and valid entry to entrepreneurship. And it’s bubbling in Kansas City. This nascent movement combines innovation, creativity and a little bit of anti-establishment attitude in focusing on making rather than consuming.

Forbes magazine identifies Kansas City as 5th of the nation’s 50 largest cities in terms of the growth rate of college-educated adults, making Kansas City one of the top “brain magnets” in the country.  Here’s what Forbes said:

The two-state Kansas City region boasts strong population growth and net in-migration– and for good reason. The city has one of the lowest costs of living, one of the highest personal-income growth rates and one of the healthiest real estate markets in the country. Short commute times also add to the attractiveness of the city for families. The city is the second-largest rail hub in the U.S. and is actively growing its life science and technology sectors. Kansas City gained 38,398 graduates from 2007 to 2009, or 2.96 percent of its 25-and-older population.

Life Sciences and KC Animal Corridor. This is perhaps the most tangible of the signs. Rising from the loss of Marion Merrill Dow, dozens of smart Kansas Citians chose to stay and build upon their expertise and passion. They could’ve left to take jobs on the East or West coasts, or gone to rebuild from there. But they planted roots here, and now those roots are flourishing. Now, I don’t want to see any of our other large corporations move out, but even if they did (thinking of the perennial Sprint rumors, for example), I now believe the same could happen again.

Blossoming arts scene. Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, the Nelson-Atkins, the Kansas City Art Institute, the arts incubator, the Crossroads, and loads of additional artist/entrepreneurs are changing the vibes in this town.  There was a small performance last week, “A Gaelic Revival,” held at the Irish Center in Union Station.  A handful of equity actors, including some of the best in Kansas City, performed scenes from “Playboy of the Western World,” “The Plough and the Stars” and “Kathleen nee Houlihan” for an enthralled audience of about 50.  Multiply this by the dozens of events every weekend, heck, every day, and you understand what a gifted arts community we have.

– Final perspective: Six qualified and capable candidates are running for mayor. Local pundits have already noted that the city can hardly go wrong with this roster.  Even discounting that all candidates speak in glowing terms about the city’s potential, this time … it feels like most of them really mean it.  I’d like to see the next mayor embrace collaboration and build on this newly emerging power.

So, to all those HR recruiters and corporate executives who still believe that the best come from somewhere else — think again. Look here first.

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