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As part of ‘Big 5,’ Chamber aims to make KC ‘most entrepreneurial city’

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce aims to make the Kansas City metro area the nation’s “most entrepreneurial city.” Photo by photoguyinmo on Flickr.

Within five years, Kansas City will represent the pinnacle of entrepreneurship in the United States, at least if the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has its way.

The Chamber on Tuesday announced “the making of America’s most entrepreneurial city” as one of its “Big 5” ideas for the Kansas City area over the next five years. In a press conference at the Liberty Memorial, the Chamber unveiled those ideas and the champions who will spearhead the efforts around them. Peter deSilva, president and COO of UMB, will serve as champion of the entrepreneurial piece of the “Big 5,” backed by a team that includes Cliff Illig, co-founder and vice chairman of Cerner, Carl Schramm president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation and Leo Morton, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In addition to the entrepreneurial effort, the other four ideas the Chamber announced were:

  • The World’s Symposium on Animal Health
  • The Kansas City Regional Translational Research Institute
  • The New UMKC Downtown Conservatory
  • The Urban Core Neighborhood Initiative

“The Big 5 build on strengths we already have regionally,” Greg Graves, chairman of the Chamber and chairman and CEO of Burns and McDonnell, said in a release. “Taken together, they propel the community forward, enhance our quality of life, and create jobs.”

The entrepreneurial piece of the Big 5 aims to build on Kansas City’s entrepreneurial history — the city has given rise to success stories like Hallmark, H&R Block and Kansas City Southern — while also leveraging the city’s existing entrepreneurial assets, like the Kauffman Foundation and UMKC’s Bloch School.

“With the list of assets we already have,” deSilva (below, photo from the Chamber on WordPresssaid in the release, “we are already credible in this space.”

“Entrepreneurs have the vision to grow,” deSilva added, “and that’s where business growth is. This is about ‘growing your own,’ rather than trying to lure other companies here. The companies that grow up here, stay here.”

The idea to devise a Big 5 arose just under two years ago, following a survey of some 400 Kansas Citians. Then, over the course of several months, dozens of meetings with different groups throughout the community helped generate 182 ideas for the area; those were whittled down to the five presented yesterday.

“They need to be strategic; they need to be specific; they need to be accomplished within five years,” said Pam Whiting, vice president of communications for the Chamber. “And it was a long and fascinating process … lots of folk had passion about a particular idea.”

Now, the Chamber and its champions look ahead to taking concrete action under the leadership of a new Chamber chairman, Frank Ellis, CEO of Swope Community Enterprises.

“Frank now is the one charged with moving this forward,” Whiting said. “Each of the champions are enlisting other folk to work with them and will be setting up strategic plans. And Frank’s intention is to have quarterly or at least semi-annual updates as to successes, milestones, accomplishments, etc.”

We’ll have more information on the entrepreneurial effort as it becomes available in the coming weeks.

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