This month, Jon Roberts had the honor of providing the closing address at the 58th Annual Missouri Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in Kansas City. The three-day conference explored the themes of innovation and creativity, with a strong emphasis on technology and the arts. Jon’s presentation focused on the effects of disruptive technology in transportation, especially the advent of autonomous vehicles. A cameo can be seen in the video recap, which also provides a flavor of the event overall.

In addition to the Missouri Governor’s Office, a number of organizations had a prominent role in making the conference a success. Special mention goes to Department of Economic Development Director, Mike Downing, and the staff and leadership of the Missouri Partnership for their contributions to the event.

This year was Jon’s second appearance at the annual event, having been a featured speaker at the 2014 conference, along with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. The repeat invitation was a distinct honor and reflects TIP’s long relationship with the State of Missouri. Examples of our work in the state include engagements in Jefferson City, Christian County, Iron County, and Columbia.
The conference also offered a chance for Kansas City to showcase its booming tech and arts districts. In fact, the city deserves special recognition for its commitment to innovation and creativity. For a community whose future was once far from certain, the city has made great strides in establishing itself as a major Midwestern technology hub. Kansas City’s progress is especially apparent in its success supporting young entrepreneurs and embracing the creative spaces they have re-developed in the downtown.

The growing role of downtown as a nexus of economic activity for the region is reflected in recent sales tax data from the Kansas City Finance Department. The data reveal that sales tax collections generated within the city’s streetcar taxing district, located in the heart of downtown, far outpaced the city’s overall growth rate, increasing by 58 percent from FY 2014 through FY 2016, compared with just 16 percent citywide. Officials point to new business growth, an increased number of downtown residents, and bigger crowds in the city’s Power & Light entertainment district. What is even more significant is the fact that the increased collections occurred even before the new streetcar line opened on May 6, 2016.

TIP’s interest and involvement in innovation districts and tech centers is central to our mission. Whether in smaller communities such as Asheville and Green Bay, or in larger cities such as Las Vegas and Seattle, we are committed to seeing talent recruitment and technology fuel economic growth. Kansas City fits that profile perfectly.