Home to 2.5 million people, Kansas City is a bi-state region composed of fifteen counties. The Kansas City metro is one of the fastest growing major job markets in the Midwest, fueled by lower business and lifestyle costs than most major metropolitan areas, a well-educated, extremely productive workforce, and the most geographically central major metro in the country. Kansas City’s central U.S. location has been particularly useful towards the metro’s growth in the distribution sector.
During the twentieth century, Kansas City garnered a national reputation for its distinctive architecture, boulevard system, and innovations in urban redevelopment. This redevelopment has continued into the twenty-first century, prompting Expansion Management magazine to name Kansas City the third “hottest city” in the United States for business expansion (2005).
Kansas City’s economy is recognized as one of the most diverse among the nation’s mid-sized cities with no one sector comprising more than 15% of the overall economy. As of April 2015, the Kansas City MSA unemployment rate was 5.4%, equal to the national average of 5.4% for the same period. Fortune Magazine released its annual list of the 500 biggest U.S. corporations, ranked by revenue, and three Kansas City-area companies made the list, including Sprint Nextel, YRC Worldwide and Seaboard. In 2011, Kansas City, Kansas was selected from over 1,100 applicants to be the first Google Fiber community. Seventeen days after the initial announcement regarding Kansas City, Kansas, Google announced the decision to include Kansas City, Missouri, thus offering service to both sides of the state line. Google Fiber provides symmetrical connectivity to around 1 gigabit per second to businesses, government, residents and schools.
With Google Fiber up and running, the Kansas City Metropolitan Area has suddenly become one of the most attractive metropolitan areas in the country for tech start-ups as well as existing companies to locate operations. With Google’s presence comes the prospect of future economic growth and new job creation. Concurrently, Kansas City has received good news from two of its long-time largest employers, General Motors and Ford. In January 2013 GM announced $600 million in upgrades to the plant including a new 450,000-square-foot paint shop and a new stamping press. In September 2012, Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, presented Ford with the Governor’s Business Project of the Year Award for the $1.1B retooling project at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo. Ford invested $1.1 billion in the plant’s expansion in 2011 after it received an incentive package from the state of Missouri. that included retooling the production lines, adding the stamping facility and new paint shop and added 1,200 new employees.
Kansas City is regarded as one of the most cosmopolitan cities of its size in the United States. Second only to Rome, Italy, in the number of its fountains (more than 200), Kansas City also has more miles of boulevards than Paris, France. Country Club Plaza, the nation’s first planned community, boasts Spanish- style architecture, beautiful landscaping, and a plethora of shops, restaurants, hotels, and apartments. More than 1,000 of the city’s structures are included on the National Register of Historic Places; among them are the Scarritt Building and Arcade, the Kansas City Star Building, Union Station, and the Kansas City Power and Light Building. The Mutual Musicians Foundation, a hot-pink bungalow acquired by the Black Musicians Union Local 627 in 1928, received a National Historic Landmark designation.
Kansas City has received recognition in several areas. It was recently ranked number one in the country for large cities with the least amount of traffic. Forbes ranked Kansas City as the best city for new college graduates, and one of the top twelve cities for business development by the National League of Cities. The Kansas City Metro area has steadily increased its rank as one of the best-performing large cities, coming in at number sixty-eight for 2013, thirty-six spots ahead of its rank the previous year. Overland Park, Kansas City’s most desirable submarket, was ranked the third best city for children by livability.com. Kansas City is experiencing exciting, steady development. Google Fiber is currently testing free wireless internet services in Kansas City, and Cisco is priming Kansas City’s continued expansion into an entrepreneurial-driven economy. Cisco recently announced its partnership with the Kansas City area, donning the city as its latest ‘smart city’. A 395,000-square-foot IKEA opened in Overland Park in September 2014. To support the growth that Kansas City is continuing to experience, a 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line is underway.