Skip to content

Amazon HQ2: The Case for Kansas City

September 21, 2017

Amazon set the economic development community abuzz recently by announcing its search for a new, second headquarters. This massive development would bring 50,000 good paying jobs ($100,000 annual wages on average) and $5 billion worth of development to the metro that Amazon chooses.

These are game changing numbers. For a little perspective, there are about 74,000 jobs in downtown Kansas City, Missouri (inside the loop and down to the crossroads). There are comparable numbers of jobs along the College Boulevard corridor.  Amazon HQ2 would, by itself, be the third-largest employment center in the metro.

Does Kansas City have a chance? PC magazine sure liked us. The New York Times did not.

We don’t know all the details of exactly what Amazon is looking for. In part, Amazon is looking for a city that can:

  • Supply a lot of talented workers.
  • Make it easy for those workers to get around (daily commutes and air travel).
  • Provide a business-friendly environment.

The Kansas City region is competing against many metros, and some would appear to be ahead of us on these particular issues. But there is one key metric where we more than hold our own.

Kansas City IS a tech hub.

Kansas City has a strong location quotient (LQ) of 1.43 in computer and math occupations. This means the share of our workforce employed in computer and math occupations is 43 percent larger than the US share. Out of the 53 metro areas with at least 1 million people, our computer and math LQ ranks 13th.

Amazon HQ2 Chart.png
SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Even with this strong base, Kansas City will need to demonstrate a robust talent pipeline to supply enough workers to meet Amazon’s expectations. Yes, computer and math occupations are a relative strength for us, but we currently have just 44,000 workers with these jobs, and most of these workers are already gainfully employed. Amazon will need 50,000 more.

No metro has a bullpen of 50,000 tech workers just waiting for a call, so finding 50,000 talented new employees will be a challenge for all metros pursuing Amazon. This is an opportunity for Kansas City to propose some innovative ideas about how we will build a talent pipeline.

Amazon will look at other, more subjective, criteria as well. Issues like transit, air service and overall quality of life will all weigh heavily. On these topics, Kansas City can tout recent progress and current and future plans.

Landing such a big economic development prize might be a bit of a reach, but going through the process is still worthwhile. The new economy is tech based. Winning economies are going to be those that can grow and attract tech talent. The process we would go through to land 50,000 hi-tech Amazon employees would also increase our capacity to grow our tech workforce and enhance the success of our existing tech firms. Kansas City’s tech sector will benefit from this effort and the number of tech employees will grow, even if they don’t necessarily work for Amazon.


KCMO Leading the Charge in Regional Growth

May 25, 2017

fastest-growing-cities-16 Est

The data for all cities in the Kansas City Metro is available here.

KC’s Population Growth Suggests Strong Economy

March 24, 2017

The most recent population estimates show that the Kansas City MSA is picking up the pace population-wise.

The 14-county metro population now stands at 2,104,509. This is an increase of 90,774 since 2010. To give you some scale for that growth, we’ve essentially added the population of another Lee’s Summit over the past six years.

MSA Pop Growth 2016 Estimates
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Kansas City’s growth has been fairly consistent. We saw annual growth of about 15,000 a year between 2013 and 2015, but that growth jumped to over 20,000 between 2015 and 2016. Again for scale, that was like adding a city the size of Raymore in one year.

What’s more encouraging is the makeup of this population growth. Population growth comes from two sources, natural growth and migration. Natural growth is a simple formula, births minus deaths. In the Kansas City metro we have seen natural growth holding steady at about 10,000 to 12,000 a year. Migration growth has two components, international and domestic. International migration into the Kansas City region has also been consistent in recent years (between 3,000 and 4,200 a year). Domestic migration has been more variable. Net domestic migration was very small in recent years, but it spiked in 2016 to 6,693.

2016 Estimates Components of Change
Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Domestic migration is important to look at because it can be indicative of a healthy economy. If people perceive more economic opportunities in a region, they are more likely to migrate there. A look at some of our peer metros shows that a positive net domestic migration is no guarantee. Metros like Austin, Nashville and Denver saw net domestic migration top 20,000 last year, while some metros like Cleveland and St. Louis saw declines.

2016 Domestic Migration
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

All told, there may not be a better economic indicator than population growth, particularly domestic migration. Yes, more people moving in means we need more housing, shops, roads, etc. but more importantly, seeing significant domestic migration means that more people are choosing to move to Kansas City from elsewhere in the country. This strongly suggests that they are finding good economic opportunities here. As we mentioned, migration figures can fluctuate greatly from year to year, but the most recent data shows a Kansas City population, and economy, on the rise.

KC Rising Metrics: Measuring Progress

March 1, 2017

Our KC Economy team from Mid-America Regional Council joined several hundred of our close friends on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to celebrate Year Two of KC Rising — a year that saw a growing momentum in a wide range of initiatives designed to strengthen our regional economy. KC Rising’s initiatives focus on three key economic drivers: Trade (in globally competitive sectors); Ideas (innovation and entrepreneurship); and People (human capital).

KC Rising’s goal is to move the Kansas City region into the top 10 among our 30 peer metros in three key measures we call the “Big Dots” — the number of quality jobs in the region, our gross regional product, and our median household income.

MARC is helping KC Rising track the region’s progress toward these three goals with a new website launched this week, The site provides detailed data for the three “Big Dots” and the systems and strategies behind them.


Currently, the region ranks 15th among peer metros in GDP, 12th in quality jobs, and 12th in median household income. Each of those is higher than what you might expect by population (where, by design, KC ranks right in the middle of its peers at 16th). But in addition to the rank, our metrics look at the percentage change for each indicator. There, things aren’t so rosy with GDP and quality jobs; we held steady on our ranking, but didn’t grow as fast as our peers. Median Household Income tells a different story. There, we grew 9th fastest, up from 19th a year ago.

The website is organized in a bottom-up structure, with 13 regional initiatives (categorized under trade, ideas and people) that are helping to implement adopted strategies (measured by 10 primary indicators) that will help systems function better (measured by another set of 11 primary indicators), which should move the needle on the three “Big Dot” goals.

Use the links for each indicator to drill down and see the actual numbers for the last two years, find out which metro leads the pack, and see who we have to pass to get into the top 10.

It’s a wealth of data that we’ll continue to add to and update. We hope you’ll find the site a useful tool to track regional progress.

Lee’s Summit is Growing in a Changing Economy

January 10, 2017

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council’s Civic Roundtable. We had a good discussion that focused on:

  • understanding the changing global economy
  •  the Kansas City area’s economic trends and
  • Lee’s Summit’s population and economic growth

Here is a copy of the presentation.



Economic Forecast Calls for Modest Growth but Rising Prosperity

October 28, 2016

Earlier today, Frank Lenk, MARC’s director of research services, presented the economic forecast MARC prepares for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce each year.  The forecast calls for the Kansas City area economy to add 19,000 jobs over the coming year, with economic output expected to grow about 2 percent.  This rate of economic growth is currently  sufficient to put downward pressure on unemployment and upward pressure on wages, resulting in rising prosperity that is more broadly shared.  Productivity, measured as output per worker, has been flat or declining both locally and nationally, however, which may make future expansion of jobs and income more difficult.


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.


%d bloggers like this: