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Kansas City’s Economic Pace is Steady, But Slow

September 20, 2016

“Not bad, but I expected so much more.”

No, that’s not a movie review, or a food critic’s take on a recent dining experience. It’s our reaction to the latest metro-level GDP numbers for Kansas City.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the ultimate measure of how well an economy is doing. It is the sum of all economic activity within an economy in one year.


Kansas City’s economy grew by 1.5 percent between 2014 and 2015. That’s not bad, but certainly not great. The region has performed both better and worse than this in recent years (see the chart above), but 1.5 percent is somewhat disappointing because it doesn’t seem to capture the way the Kansas City economy feels right now. Employment is at an all-time high, incomes are rising, and construction activity appears to be on the rise, so 1.5 percent just doesn’t feel right. But the economy doesn’t really do “feelings” very well. It is a strict numbers game and our numbers are just, well… okay. What this tells us is that despite some recent economic wins, we still have a long way to go, especially when we look at how we are doing with respect to our peer metros. Of the 53 metro areas with a population of 1 million or more, our 1.5 percent growth rate ranks us at number 42. The metros towards the top of this list have been able find a balance between:

  • A good business climate where companies can find the talent they need to grow.
  • An opportunity-rich environment where people can find career options (and training) for quality jobs that can improve their lives.
  • A vibrant community where people want to live and work.

We are not sounding an alarm here. Kansas City’s economy has come a long way in recent years and we are definitely in the race to be a strong competitor in the global economy. But the pace of the race is quickening, and we will need more than 1.5 percent growth to move up with the front-runners.

Here is a link to the data.


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