Something is brewing in Kansas City’s tech scene—could it be a renaissance?
Kansas City’s Golden Jubilee is about to happen.
Some 50 years after the opening of its airport, as well as a gleaming football stadium-baseball park sports complex named after country son and former President Harry S. Truman, the city is ready for a cure. long-awaited rejuvenation.
The crown jewel of the renaissance is the $1.5 billion Kansas City International Airport, which will open in March 2023, just in time for the NCAA regionals that month. and the NFL Draft mega-party a month later.
On Thursday, Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. FB,
announced plans for an $800 million data center at Golden Plains Technology Park, a 1 million square foot facility near the airport. A $351 million expansion of the city’s streetcar line is set to be completed by 2025. An 11,000-seat soccer-only stadium for the KC Current – the first in North America for a professional women’s team – is set to to open in 2024 for $70 million. . There are even rumors of a downtown ballpark for the Kansas City Royals.
Meta’s planned data center is “another example that Missouri is on the right track to attract technology,” Republican Missouri Governor Mike Parson told MarketWatch. “There are opportunities off both coasts, and as our automotive, agricultural and animal health corridor is driven by technology, investment and business will grow.”
Meanwhile, improved transportation infrastructure should bring more visitors to the area, according to Parson and others.
“It’s going to be a game changer. It will reset a lot of opinions” among business visitors Tim Cowden, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council, said of the new airport, which will replace the very outdated current one. “In Kansas City, we only get so many swings, so many bats.”
The current airport, opened in 1972, had an inauspicious start: there was an attempted diversion to Cuba.
Construction appears to be sprouting up all over downtown as the city prepares to host the NFL Draft in April 2023, welcomes a continued influx of tech workers from across the country and — city officials are confident — is named one of 11 host cities in North America for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
They follow the path of Oracle Corp. ORCL,
which is nearing the close of its proposed $28.3 billion acquisition of Cerner Corp., the largest private employer in the Kansas City area and a leading player in the world of medical informatics. Cybersecurity, architecture and engineering technology and animal agriculture technology also highlight a region of 2.65 million people that LinkedIn ranks 8th in net immigration since the pandemic. , as well as among the top 15 metropolitan areas for tech jobs per capita.
Kansas City, with more than 100,000 net tech jobs, grew 1.7% year-over-year in 2020, ranking third in tech job growth after Austin and San Francisco, according to the CompTIA Cyberstates 2021 report. And Missouri is booming: it’s the seventh fastest growing US state.
The Brookings Institute recently found that tech jobs in nine cities, including St. Louis, nearby Denver and Dallas, initially declined at the start of Covid-19, but by the end of 2020 they had increased by at least 3 % on average.
“Why do people migrate to work? Well, people are driven by predictable costs and regulation,” said Ryan Weber, CEO of KC Tech Council. “Usually it’s a mid-career person with a family that wants to afford a house.”
“I prefer to think of this region as Silicon Prairie,” said Tom Herzog, chief operating officer of Netsmart Technologies Inc., which develops and sells health information technologies such as electronic health records. “The health technology ecosystem sits in the middle of the heart.”
The 54-year-old company moved from New York in 2011 to tap into the area’s IT talent and gain access to nearby universities in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas.
“It’s a wonderful place to do heavy, heady work,” says Philip Gaskin, vice president of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffmann Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the country, with more than 2, $5 billion. “The last great asset class lurks in plain sight.”
Sustainable lifestyle appeal
The region’s characteristics have proven to be a lasting draw for tech workers returning from stints in Silicon Valley.
“It’s an environment’s dream boat, with cheaper costs and lots of talent,” says Lisa Tamayo, CEO of Scollar Inc., an animal technology company with operations in Kansas City. He moved from Santa Rosa, California in late 2019 to be closer to the heart of his market. “The whole world has made this incredible evolution working from home. We can do so much wherever we are.
Jannae Gammage, 35, who describes herself as a “military brat,” works with tech startups in Kansas City. She decided on the destination in June 2019 after considering California and Atlanta due to KC’s fertile small business community. “It’s the best tech ecosystem startup environment I’ve ever been in,” she said.
Joe O’Connor, 25, is a Kansas City native who returned home in 2020 after working at a San Francisco tech startup. He now works at Chisel Labs, another San Francisco-based tech startup run by a former Microsoft Corp. MSFT,
executive. “After college [University of Kansas], I wanted to be part of the startup scene in San Francisco and came back for family and growth opportunities in the Kansas City startup scene,” he said. “It seems like a really exciting time, now with the possibility of working from home.”
That’s not to say Kansas City is the default option for tech workers looking for a change of scenery and lifestyle. Stereotypes and misperceptions persist for what some still consider to be an “overflown country”.
“Kansas is a big, small city,” says Darcy Howe, a former Merrill Lynch executive who, as managing director of the KCRise Fund, raised $60 million in its first two funding rounds (2019-20) . “What could really accelerate the market, she says, are big ideas in agricultural technology, which have been lacking so far.”
“KC has no focus. It’s our Achilles’ heel and our strength,” Howe said.
But changes to infrastructure such as the airport and the light rail line will likely help accelerate the rise of the local tech economy, according to longtime tech residents.
“In the late 90s, early 2000s, trucking and telecommunications were big here,” says Jason Delker, a former Sprint employee who is now a product manager at Torch.AI, which uses artificial intelligence to process the data. “But over the past 15 years, the healthcare software industry has led the way.”
The 90-person company plans to hire 300 people in 2022, making it one of the fastest growing tech companies in town.