Is Kansas City the Next Silicon Valley?

Date: July 19, 2016 Last Edit: July 21, 2016

Growing startup community and technology sector bode well for the future.

Is Kansas City the Next Silicon Valley?

If entrepreneurship, tech savviness, and a thriving startup community aren’t what come to mind when you think of Kansas City, you may need to adjust your mindset.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of 18- to 25-year-olds in Kansas City increased by 13 percent and the number of 25- to 29-year-olds increased 8 percent. With younger populations come technology talent, so it makes sense that Kansas City also saw the largest increase in high-tech startup density for large metro areas between 1990 and 2010. The city is striving to capitalize on this growth, with improved public amenities, a “smart grid” of 50 downtown blocks, public-private partnerships reviving downtown, Google Fiber test buildouts, and more. And while tech-savvy entrepreneurs typically migrate to the West Coast, Free Enterprise reported the reverse: Kansas City is attracting entrepreneurs from Seattle and San Francisco, and larger West Coast tech companies are choosing Kansas City to set up satellite offices.

All of this puts Kansas City in a strong position to embrace and capitalize on the U.S. shift to a digital economy. In fact, according to the Innovation that Matters 2016 report, Kansas City is among the nation’s top startup cities.

This study—produced by Free Enterprise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and Washington, D.C. startup incubator and venture fund 1776—evaluated which cities are best positioned to lead the digital economy based on how well they attract talent and a skilled workforce, increase investments, develop industry specializations, create density, connect the community, and foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Kansas City ranked the 24th best.

The study had five key takeaways for Kansas City:

  1. Strong connectivity and engagement across the area from corporate and institutional partners and citizens is the biggest asset for the burgeoning startup community.
  2. Quality of life and the local regulatory environment are two strong points of the area, but the city may have a cultural weakness with a lack of openness to new ideas.
  3. It will be important for Kansas City to nurture the growing talent pool to remain competitive with other cities.
  4. The city has strengths in construction, transportation, and logistics, but these have not yet translated into a smart city startup scene.
  5. Millennials are repopulating old urban neighborhoods, which the city should build upon to foster its startup community.

Here’s a look at Kansas City’s score for each metric:

  • Talent: 25
  • Capital: 24
  • Industry Specialization: 23
  • Density: 23
  • Connectivity: 9
  • Culture: 19

The study noted that the state of entrepreneurship is constantly evolving and with it the cities in which entrepreneurs elect to launch new businesses—so for Kansas City to remain a good environment for entrepreneurs, lawmakers must not tax and regulate them out of town.

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