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Steve Tutt Welcome back to HL Restorations Impacting Midwest industry. I’m your host, Steve Tutt. Let’s get to it. Welcome, Jill McCarthy, with the Kansas City Area Development Council. How are you today, Jill?
Jill McCarthy Doing great. Thank you. Glad to be here.
Introducing Jill McCarthy and the Kansas City Area Development Council
ST Thank you so much for coming on our show. We’ve been excited to have you come on. Tell us a little bit about KCADC and what you do.
JM Sure. So, KCADC is the Kansas City Area Development Council. We are a private, not-for-profit, solely focused on new business and talent attraction to the region.
So, we cover 18 counties, 50 cities on both sides of the state line, and we’re funded primarily from the corporate sector. So, it gives us a really a nice seat to sit in to be able to market the region as a whole.
We act a little bit like Switzerland in that we don’t play sides. So, we’re really looking at companies from outside the states that are either relocating, or they’re looking to expand their operations.
So, we start kind of up here at that 20,000-foot level, and we tell them all about the region as a whole, whether it’s demographics, workforce, real estate properties, incentives, all of those things to help them make a decision.
Our competition is Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and we help companies narrow it down to find their perfect fit within the area.
Strengths of the KC Region
ST That sounds fantastic. Now with your association, what are some of the core industry strengths for the KC region?
JM I’d say one of the really neat things about the Kansas City area is that we have great diversity when it comes to our industries.
I’ve been with KCADC for almost 23 years, which seems crazy at this point, but throughout all of that time, we’ll show a pie chart that shows the industry makeup of the United States and then the pie chart for industry makeup of the Kansas City region, and we’re almost a mirror image.
That really helps us when it comes to consistency and for people being able to say that I know the certainty of that market. When you look at what our core strengths in this area, I would say, especially in 2020, and you look at food and beverage, e-commerce.
We’re a great rail hub in Kansas City as well, and a lot of air cargo comes in now to Kansas City, as well as advanced manufacturing, whether that’s automotive, but also PPE manufacturing, there’s plastics, medical device manufacturing, etc.
In fact, the animal health sector that we have in the Kansas City region represents is 56% of the global industry. Then, we have financial insurance, financial services, and shared service operations.
So, you might have a company that has their marketing, payroll, and sales division and maybe their creative division, but it’s not necessarily a headquarters. That would be a shared service operation.
So, we see a lot of those, as well as the global design-build community that consists of architecture, engineering, construction firms in Kansas City that are doing work globally.
Certainly, technology, too, whether that’s a tech company or data center, we’re seeing some activity for some of the big hyper-scale data centers, as well as cybersecurity and national security.
Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty
ST Tell us a little bit about the initiatives you’re involved with when it comes to the association and explain what those are.
JM Absolutely. I touched on a couple of them a little bit earlier. We have KC SmartPort, which has been around probably 18 years and is a hallmark of the Kansas City region.
The foreign trade space that’s here in the Kansas City region is important, too. Whether it’s manufacturers or assembly work that comes into the region. Then, when you look at the animal health corridor, that’s another one.
We have people within KC ADC that dedicate their time completely to these initiatives, and they’re driving more business within SmartPort, which would be anything transportation-related and within the animal health corridor.
So, you think about USDA and the relocation of two of their headquarters out of DC last year. It’s about helping them to attract the right talent and giving them the tools that they need.
Another one I talked a little bit about earlier is the National Security Crossroads, which is a coalition that both governors in Kansas and Missouri have supported, and it’s about showcasing these two states together as one and showcasing the agility and resiliency and that cross federal collaboration and innovation on federal security mission work.
ST I love it. How do you source your new projects?
JM So, they come in in a lot of different fashions. One of our core attraction components is through site location consultants, and there are consultants across the country.
We have a database of about 4,000 consultants that we market to and speak to regularly, and we have about 200 firms that we are in touch with on a more regular basis. They probably make up 70% to 80% of our projects that come in.
Next would be an accounting firm, a law firm, a boutique. All they do is site location work, and then we draw projects from there, too, from some of our local partners. Our local real estate community is extraordinary.
You think about some of the construction teams, you might be in another market, and somebody sits around the table and, and they say, “We’re really struggling in XYZ community,” and that person might respond, “Have you looked at Kansas City?” and then they loop us in.
We’re in different industry portals, and we’re speaking globally to what’s happening in Kansas City around those initiatives.
Right now, we’re attending virtual conferences, we’re reaching out virtually and speaking on different industries as it pertains to cybersecurity or financial services, and we rely on our community partners and our state partners. Economic development is a team sport.
ST How many team members do you have?
JM Right now, we have 25 team members. We’re a little bit bigger than some firms, but we’re smaller than others.
Again, we’re regional, so we cover a bigger area, but we have not only our business development team, but we have a whole marketing, PR, and graphic design side of the house, which is an amazing asset for us. It’s all about the team and pulling the team together.
How COVID Has Impacted the KCADC
ST I’ve got another question for you because I’m interested to see how this is impacting you, but how has COVID changed your game plan?
JM I saw a quote from Dan Schulman with PayPal, and he said, “We went from being the Flintstones to the Jetsons in less than nine months.” Everyone has become very savvy about communicating through the internet.
Our site visits even look very different now. We might have one or two people, and then everybody else is connected via Zoom. We’re marketing differently. Normally we would host consultants in other markets and in Kansas City, but we’ve been doing that by Zoom.
We partnered up with J. Rieger for a couple of “consultant happy hours,” and we invited some of our local partners and out of market guests, as well. We did one Midwest; we’re getting ready to ramp up another one on the West Coast.
When you have Andy Rieger come on and talk about how we started as a business and the history and how they changed things around to help the community during the crisis, and they’re doing so much more, and he was really focused on keeping his people on board.
ST With the Kansas City market, why and how do we win, and why and how do we lose?
JM Every project is different. I would say that everybody has a different trigger. The workforce is number one. I don’t care who you’re talking to or what kind of project you need, you need the people to be able to do the work, and you want them to have the skillsets.
So, partnerships with education and partnerships with job training, all of those things impact that. In terms of the way we lose, sometimes it’s out of our control, and sometimes it’s a wake-up call of what you need to do to make your market better.
We lost a project earlier this year where they were going to hire 15 people in a technology type of operation, and the final two came down to us in Atlanta. When you’re hiring 1,500 people, and you want to ramp them up in less than 12 months, the company sometimes says, “Hey, it’s a factor of population.
We feel more confident going to Atlanta,” and we can’t change that. But there’s also the possibility that they come back with a smaller operation in Kansas City at a later time. So, sometimes you lose, but you’re going to win later.
ST How has the KC Heart been utilized, and or how did you select KC Heart as the brand for Casey?
JM Yeah, so kudos to our whole marketing team on this. A couple of years ago, people would say, “What are you known for?”
Well, we’re known for barbecue, we’re known for the Chiefs, the Royals, but we’re also very well known for arts and for being a creative community in terms of the art performance and art ballet symphony.
We have amazing arts in Kansas City, but depending on who you ask, everybody would say something different. So, we created this listening tour, and at the end of the day, what we all came back to was passion.
People have pride in Kansas City. So, our team reached out to Charlie Hustle and the whole team there and said, “What if we took that Charlie Hustle heart and put that heart as the brand for Kansas City?”
So, the heart became the mechanism that fit us so beautifully, and it was already there. It wasn’t something that needed to be sold for people to buy into it. So casey.org has become an external lifestyle marketing website for us.
ST Can you tell us what’s ahead for our region?
JM So, despite all of the challenges of 2020, we had a great year. We impacted about $123 million in new payroll, 3,300 new jobs, and close to a billion dollars in new capital investment.
So, it was an extraordinary year for Kansas City, and I think we’re in that same role. We’ve got three or four projects that they’re getting ready to announce here in the next three to six weeks, and what we’re seeing that’s different this year is that offices are coming back.
So, we’ve opened three new financial services projects, and we’ve had a couple of projects that have been dormant for many months come back with great speed. So, we’re going to have a better balance.
ST So, I don’t want to get you in trouble, but can you share with everybody what’s your favorite barbecue in Kansas City?
JM I would say I have many favorites for different reasons. Is that okay?
ST I’m the same way. It depends on what I’m eating. I like certain things at certain places. What do you do to relax? I mean, do you do anything fun besides work?
JM I love ballet, the symphony, Broadway, sports. The nice thing about when you come from Chicago, and you come to Kansas City is, we’re not competing against each other unless it’s World Series or the Super Bowl, so I can keep those affiliations, but also be fans of the Chiefs and the Royals. I’ve got a son in the military, and I have a daughter-in-law that’s extraordinary. We do a lot of things with trying to stop veterans’ suicide.
ST Well, make sure you thank your son for his services. Jill, that’s all I’ve got, unless you have anything else you want to plug, I really appreciate you coming on our show. You guys are doing a fantastic job, so keep up the good work.
JM Well, thank you. I hope you have a great year.
ST Well, I hope we all have a good 2021. It can’t get any worse, I wouldn’t think. Thanks again and until next time.