Known as the “hub for food logistics” in the Midwest, the Kansas City region boasts a unique approach to economic development. KC SmartPort – a nonprofit economic development organization – focuses on attracting freight-based businesses to the region through its streamlined efforts in workforce development, real estate opportunities, and thriving logistics-focused operations. The Kansas City region recently reported substantial growth in ecommerce and distribution companies establishing operations in the area with these companies planning to invest $1.3 billion and aiming for the creation of seven thousand jobs. KC SmartPort president Chris Gutierrez and his team attended the Dallas RILA/LINK 2020 conference as exhibitors and shared the latest and greatest developments emerging in the Kansas City region.
“With online sales increasing every year, companies have really been focusing on their omnichannel strategy. The Kansas City region is centrally located and offers a robust transportation infrastructure from road, air, rail and water, ultimately supporting the ability for businesses to reach 88-90 percent of the population in about two days. This really lends itself as a successful strategy around ecommerce,” said Chris Gutierrez, president of KC SmartPort.
“Since 2012, we’ve had over 40 million square feet of industrial buildings built primarily on spec because the ecommerce companies will go through a peak season and if they hit their numbers, they need to be in the next building within a certain time frame to hit next year’s peak. If they don’t have a building to move into, then the opportunity is lost. That’s something our region has been very successful in supporting,” he added.
Among big-name ecommerce and distribution companies that made the move to the Kansas City region in 2019 include Wal-Mart, Hostess, Amazon, CVS Pharmacy, Overstock.com, Tool Source Warehouse, and more. Part of this surge in ecommerce, automotive, and retailers is dually supported by the region’s balancing of business and workforce development efforts.
“What we are doing locally is a three-step process. First, we create an awareness buzz at the elementary and high schools and community colleges around supply chain jobs that serve as career opportunities with great benefits and growth options rather than just filling a position. The second part of local efforts involves public transportation, rideshare, and other mobility solutions to support getting the employee to the job site.”
“The third leg of this approach is encouraging employers to critically think about workplace culture. We take it a step further and educate employers of the importance of the first week during onboarding, eliminating the desire to go to the next company offering a quarter more in pay but offering a potentially more satisfying culture. If the company offers a healthy culture, it makes a huge difference, specifically with non-tangible things that add value to the employee experience.”
These multi-layered efforts not only support the existing workforce and growth in economic development but serve as proactive solutions for future workforce generations in Kansas City. More than 2.3 million people in the region rely on the unique economic development team covering both Kansas and Missouri. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) serves as a bi-state authority covering a broader regional area while addressing large-scale concerns. This partnership serves as a major differentiator in the region for businesses seeking a myriad of options in amenities, incentives, and transportation.
Chris Gutierrez is the President of KC SmartPort, Inc., a KCADC affiliate organization focused on attracting freight based economic development to the greater Kansas City region and providing thought leadership to the supply chain industry in Kansas City. Chris has been active in economic development and logistics for over 30 years. He joined KC SmartPort in 2003.