Thinking Outside the Box

KCADC President and CEO Bob Marcusse reveals the three main things that will attract new companies to KC.

Like most industries, economic development continually evolves to meet the demands of a changing global marketplace. Companies always have, and always will, meticulously evaluate infrastructure, real estate, building sites and incentives when reviewing relocation and expansion opportunities. That will never change.

So what has changed? More than ever, location decisions by today’s companies are driven by less-tangible assets like culture, neighborhoods, accessibility and the ability to attract talented people.

Let’s explore this a bit further:

Workforce and talent development

Companies today are in a global race for talent. The available pool of high-performing professionals is shrinking as the Baby Boomer generation retires and the 20 percent smaller Gen X is left to fill in the gaps. The much larger Gen Y is at least 10 years from being able to step into highly skilled roles or senior level positions meaning competition for the best candidates is a high-stakes game.

Today, cities must prove to a company that they can attract the best and brightest, and develop the talent needed to support a company’s growth. Our regional higher education institutions and workforce training programs have become increasingly critical and regularly step up to design innovative and customized partnerships that make it easier for a company to choose a KC location. But our competition is doing the same; we need to be faster and more agile if we are to continue to supply the fuel that powers our economic engine: our workforce.

Air service

As the global marketplace continues to shrink, there’s a clear expectation that major cities can support national and international business travelers. The KC region’s central location already offers a unique advantage in that travelers can be on either coast in most cases within three hours. However, the most important amenity we can offer is frequency of non-stop service to major markets, including international markets. While we don’t control airline schedules, anything we can to do facilitate travel from KCI will benefit ALL of us.  Air service and the facilities that enable that service are not optional amenities; they are vital to the very future of our region.


More than any other time, livability and lifestyle are having a significant influence on where companies choose to locate new or expanded facilities. We are regularly fielding questions related to entertainment, nightlife, neighborhoods, schools, dining and the music scene. Our KCADC Talent Recruitment program has become a unique competitive advantage for KC. Today we regularly showcase our region as a lifestyle destination right alongside all of the traditional economic development assets and business case. For a company to employ the best talent in the world, we must offer not just a great job, but a great place to live.

In the world of economic development, communities must be prepared to adapt and change to the requirements of changing business needs. This may require investing in infrastructure, developing unique incentives or focusing on non-traditional community assets. Together, we can build a future KC that will always compete for the best if we invest today.

Bob Marcusse is president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council. For more information, visit