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Banking on KC – Steven Anthony

 

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Steven Anthony, the Executive Director of Business Development for The Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City. Welcome, Steven.

Steven Anthony:

Thank you. I appreciate it, Kelly. Thanks for having me.

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's talk about your role as the Executive Director of Business Development. You've been at that for about a year now, so give us a broad overview of what you do in that role to serve Kansas City, and how you do it.

Steven Anthony:

Sure, sure. My position particularly is to lead our Business Development Department, which is mainly responsible for the business attraction, retention, and expansion of businesses both small and large throughout Kansas City, Missouri. One of the things that we focus exclusively on, not just those businesses that are big-they get all the great headlines, but also our small and medium-sized businesses, and making sure that they have the resources they need in order to navigate this city, and truly be a benefit to Kansas City, Missouri and all of its citizens.

Kelly Scanlon:

Talk to us about some of those initiatives for growing businesses. The focus on the smaller businesses too is so important. They really are what drives the economy here in Kansas City. I think sometimes people forget that small businesses play a large role in that, so talk to us about that.

Steven Anthony:

They do. One of the things that I realized from the very beginning is, that smaller to medium-sized businesses provide over 70% of your jobs. Most people don't know that stat. You see the businesses that certainly get the headlines, but those are the businesses that provide the bulk of your jobs. That's really where, when I came into this role, it was imperative for me to make sure that we focus a lot of our efforts on making sure that those businesses have what they needed.

Steven Anthony:

From an initiative standpoint, of course the EDC is comprised of really the main three areas of the organization. There's Business Development, which I lead. There's also our Land Development Group, and then there's our Strategic Initiatives. That encompasses everything else that EDC does. The three main areas that Business Development specifically drills down on, and one of those is business attraction, retention, and expansion for businesses of all sizes.

Steven Anthony:

One of the main things that we do in that particular area is making sure that those businesses have resources that they need. So whether we're directly providing programs, or whether we're supporting other programs that are already out here in the marketplace, those are the main things that our Business Development officers will focus with those businesses to make sure that they have what they need in order to either come to Kansas City, stay in Kansas City, or grow in Kansas City.

Steven Anthony:

The second part of that, that we focus, is on entrepreneurial and ecosystem support, so really supporting our entrepreneurs within Kansas City, Missouri, and making sure that they have what's necessary. Now, a lot of that we do within EDC. We do that through direct programming through our Launch KC program, and so forth. But we also support other programs that are already out in Kansas City, that are doing great work. We partner with the organizations such as Porter House, Kansas City. GIFT is another one.

Steven Anthony:

There are a lot of other programs and organizations that do a lot of great work with entrepreneurs across the board. We want to make sure that we're continually supporting the work that they're doing because, while they may not be eligible necessarily for the direct benefit of what EDC offers initially, certainly at some point, they're going to scale up. We want to make sure that we're there during that process to be able to assist.

Steven Anthony:

Lastly, but certainly not least, the area that we focus on is what I call human capital. I say human capital in a broader sense because it's not just solely workforce development, which is certainly a huge part because a lot of the businesses that we've had conversations with, that we speak to, certainly want to make sure that the talent is here within Kansas City, Missouri, and making sure that those skills are certainly there.

Steven Anthony:

But the other side of that is talent, attraction, and retention. We want to make sure that folks that have the talent are staying in Kansas City, and want to be in Kansas City. Then also folks that are from outside, look at Kansas City as a place where they want to grow their careers. The things that we can do to support the existing programs that are certainly out there, and additional things that we can do on our side that help support those efforts is certainly the last, but certainly not least, part of the work that we do within the Business Development Department.

Kelly Scanlon:

That area alone must keep you really busy right now, given the labor shortages that we hear so much about, and some businesses actually closing because they can't find the people they need to staff, to provide their services, and create their products. Is there anything in particular that the EDC is doing right now to help alleviate that?

Steven Anthony:

Yeah. I had a conversation with some folks, maybe a few weeks back, and one of the things that I said, Kansas City is really a great market for manufacturing, skill-level manufacturing. I think one of the areas that are of the challenge here, within certain fields, is that there's a marketing issue. Folks, especially young people, don't look at construction or look at manufacturing as something that's sexy, something that they'd really want to get into, not realizing that the bulk of that work nowadays is really tech-driven. It's really an area where we have to do more of a better job in terms of advocating and showcasing the fact that it's not what it used to be. It's certainly something that's more tech-driven. It's something that folks can make a great living, and take care of their families, doing that type of work.

Steven Anthony:

The other side of it is, we also want to even go as far as, where do we start making headway into building out that workforce? I remember having conversations with our, soon to be leaving, Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell of Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools, and talked about the opportunity to start getting into some of those schools and showcasing exactly what these fields consist of, how the wages are really, really great for those folks, and really give them a good start, but really wanting just to help them build from there. I think those are some of the things that we've certainly started working on, early on, to tap into that.

Kelly Scanlon:

You just returned from a recruiting trip to San Francisco, goes back to the first initiative you were talking about-recruiting companies to Kansas City. Tell us about that, if you can.

Steven Anthony:

Yeah, it was a great opportunity to touch base with area tech companies that are out there in the Bay Area in San Francisco, and learning a little bit more about what goes into their decision-making when they're looking to expand beyond the Coast. It was great to sit down with some of those folks that are decision-makers and understand a little bit more about what they're looking for, and then realizing that there's a great synergy with what we're building out here in Kansas City, particularly Kansas City, Missouri landing Meta. We know how large of a company that is.

Steven Anthony:

I think with that being the case, I think some of those companies are now paying attention to Kansas City where they weren't before, and looking at it as a place where we know we have the tech infrastructure that's being built out. But the other side of it is, is that we are developing that workforce that is essential to what these companies are looking for. There's other factors, of course. Cost of living is certainly a big deal. It's a lot different than it is on the Coast, cost of labor, and so forth. But the standard of living that we have here in Kansas City, Missouri is also a big selling point. Folks are paying a lot closer of attention than they used to be, so that trip was great to get a chance to get that perspective.

Kelly Scanlon:

As you travel around talking about Kansas City, and finding out what the needs of these companies may be, what do you think surprises people the most when you tell them about Kansas City?

Steven Anthony:

That's a really good question. I think most people are genuinely surprised at everything that we have going for us, from an economic development standpoint, from the growing diversity that we have in our community, the changes that are happening. Of course, we just won the shout out for the huge World Cup win for us. That's a big deal. I think that folks are really seeing for the first time. I think Market Watch had an article within the last few months that talked about the fact that Kansas City's one of the top 10 tech areas in the country.

Steven Anthony:

I think that there are a lot of those pieces that are coming into place, that folks are just really paying attention to. The new airport will be opening up next year, in March. Folks are looking at it and saying, "Wow, I didn't realize Kansas City was as big of a market as it is." Whenever I run into people and they're like, "I'd landed in Kansas City, spent some time there, and I was absolutely amazed at everything the city had to offer." We were hidden gem for a long period of time, and I think that we're getting to this point where it's not always so hidden. I think that's really great to see.

Kelly Scanlon:

Sure. As you said, the World Cup and some of the other major national events that have been held here, people are starting to take note, and find out just exactly what we do have to offer in so many different areas- the arts, business, tech, many of those that you just covered. You held a panel discussion just a couple of weeks ago titled, "Put Us To Work For You." If I'm a business owner in Kansas City, how can the EDC help me? I know you touched on a little bit of this earlier, but let's get detailed. What are some of the specific programs that you offer to help business owners either start, or grow their businesses?

Steven Anthony:

That panel is really focused around our business development officers and getting to know those folks, because they're broken down by territories. The goal for that program is really to educate people on who the business development officers are, what can they help you do? The biggest part that I really wanted people to take away from it is, that we're a resource. I believe that EDC Kansas City should be your first stop. If you're a business, a small or medium-size business, or you're a large business, and you're looking to understand exactly how to navigate starting a business, bringing your business to Kansas City, growing your business, start here - that one-stop-shop where we can help guide you through those other channels.

Steven Anthony:

We work with all of those other partners, our partners with the city, our partners within other respective organizations throughout the area. I think that the biggest part of it is, we're that one-stop-shop. Do we have certain types of programs that are specific to incentives, and making sure that we can save you some money when you're growing your business? Absolutely. Those programs, of course, are businesses that are a certain size, and they've certainly grown a little bit. We have certain aspects that are built for businesses. But, even more so than that, I think that just being the one-stop-shop where you certainly come to us first, let our business development officers guide you through how to expand and grow your business here in Kansas City, I think is the biggest takeaway that I want folks to see.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. One of the specific programs you mentioned earlier that has been a particular success, and I know several business owners who've been through the program, is Launch KC. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Steven Anthony:

Launch KC is certainly one of our strategic initiatives. It's a partnership with the EDC, along with the Downtown Council. As you mentioned, there are a ton of businesses that have been successful, that have gone through that program. More recently, we've launched our Social Venture Studio, which is a cohort that's really based around companies that are mission-driven. It's the first of its kind throughout the country, so that's a really big thing.

Steven Anthony:

There are some really great companies that are going through that program right now. [inaudible 00:13:01] Markets is, just off the top of my head. One Pair, is a shoe company that's based off of 50/50 Troost. There are some really great companies that have great missions behind them, on top of the fact that they're looking to grow, and expand, and be a bigger benefit to the Kansas City community. Launch has certainly been one of those key programs that have helped these businesses grow and expand. We continue to do the work that we need to do to continue to help nurture those businesses through.

Kelly Scanlon:

One of the phrases that you see a lot on the EDC website is, "Citywide Prosperity." What does citywide prosperity look like to you?

Steven Anthony:

Citywide prosperity is the way that [inaudible 00:13:45]. I've looked at that as a place where Kansas City, Missouri, and all of its all of its citizens have an opportunity to thrive. That looks different for different people. The word prosperity looks different to different folks. But whatever way that looks for you, and no matter who you are or where you come from, you have an opportunity to thrive here, and live the kind of life that you want to live right here in Kansas City. I think that's the idea. It's a little bit bigger than simply taking approach of, "Oh, this is a building. We're going to redevelop this building and do that."

Steven Anthony:

We're moved into a different era where I think that economic development is not the same as it's been in the last 30 years. It's really moved into, the way I've envisioned is, this more human-centric approach. I think you look at the individual, you look at the citizens of a city, and you determine what do they need in order to live the best kind of life that they want, to be able to take care of their families, and so forth? Then, how do we wrap the things that we can wrap around them, so that they can prosper? I think that's the position that we want to be in. We want to play our part at EDC in making sure that we can help folks prosper.

Kelly Scanlon:

With that said, where do you see the greatest opportunity for Kansas City today, immediately? Then look 10, 20 years down the road into the future, where do you see our opportunities as we approach the next couple of decades?

Steven Anthony:

We have a very unique opportunity here. We've mentioned, the World Cup is coming. The NFL draft is coming next year. The airport is certainly going to be very advantageous for us going forward, because a lot of these major companies are going to look at Kansas City as a place where they can get in and out of, they can get here, they can bring their employees. There's certainly a tremendous amount of opportunity. I think one of the things that we can see immediately is to expand upon the areas that we've been very strong in.

Steven Anthony:

The Business Development Department, over the last fiscal year, we closed about one and a half billion dollars in total capital investment, created almost close to 3,900 jobs. The biggest part that I'm most proud of is the annual salary of those jobs, which is a little bit over 72,000. The areas that they were big in specialized manufacturing, design, and engineering, IT, supply chain logistics. I think that gives you a really good sense of the areas that Kansas City is really strong.

Steven Anthony:

When we talk about that immediately, we need to build more facilities that can continue to attract the areas that we're strong in. We need to bring our developers on board, our real estate developers and industrial developers-bring them on board, showing them that, "Hey, we have some areas that we're strong in. We need to continue to build out the product inventory." The other side of that is, we need to continue to train up our workforce and attract the talent that can fit within these areas that continue to grow, to grow those areas. That's the immediate need because we already can prove that we're strong in those areas. I think in order to continue to move down that line, we need to make sure that everything is in place to make sure that those areas continue to thrive.

Steven Anthony:

Kelly, it's funny, as I look over the next however many years in terms of what's next for Kansas City, and certainly where opportunities are, I think there are so many parts of the city that have been underutilized, underdeveloped. I think that there's a unique opportunity to really get into those areas and build. We can look at it from a negative perspective, but I choose to look at it glass have full type of mentality of, "Hey, we haven't taken advantage and built out certain parts of the city." I'm a Kansas City native, just moved back after being away for 20 years, and I saw parts of the city that looked the same way as they did 20 years ago. I think that's where the opportunities lie going forward. We can build out those areas, and we can continue to build industry in those markets.

Kelly Scanlon:

I think, probably a [inaudible 00:18:03] area to that, is not only building those out, but then focus on the interconnectedness too, so that we have easy access to everything too.

Steven Anthony:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think we're moving in that direction. We have a little bit of work, but we're moving in that direction. The street car is already going out further, it's going up a little bit further. At some point, we're going to get that street car to extend east and west. I think that there's certain opportunities we're going to continue to improve, other infrastructure parts of the city that are going to allow us to, like you said, be more interconnected. So there's certainly those opportunities I absolutely see. I'm excited about Kansas City,

Kelly Scanlon:

Steven, thank you so much for all that you're doing to help build up Kansas City, to help our businesses, and to create new opportunities, and to really focus on that interconnectedness, as we discussed. If someone's interested in learning more about the services that you have for businesses, or any of the other strategic initiatives that the EDC itself is involved in, is the website the best place to go for that?

Steven Anthony:

Absolutely. Certainly go to EDCKC.com, for all the information that you're looking for. We're on some of the social channels, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. But yeah, definitely the website is certainly that first stop.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well again, thank you very, very much, Steven for your time today. We appreciate it.

Steven Anthony:

Thank you, Kelly. I appreciate you having me on.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Steven Anthony for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. The Kansas City area offers businesses a number of strategic advantages, such as a central location within the country, and a Midwest work ethic. Often overlooked, however, is our region's abundant resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. The Business Development Team at the EDC is one of those resources. It uses a holistic approach to facilitate a strong business climate. Besides actively working to recruit businesses to Kansas City, it helps local businesses grow by connecting them to resources, providing networking introductions, finding the right workforce development programs, and much more. Like Country Club Bank, they assist businesses with leveraging opportunities, and creating paths to prosperity. Thanks for tuning in today. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

 

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