Metro area officials have retooled an effort to improve Kansas City’s overall economic performance.

“We don’t want to be Denver or Nashville. We want to be the best Kansas City we can be,” said Sheri Gonzalez, director of KC Rising and vice president of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City.

KC Rising was rolled out four years ago, with a focus on economic drivers such as people, ideas and trade – that is, selling goods outside the area. It measures Kansas City against 30 peer metro areas. Half are larger, such as Orlando, Sacramento, St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Half are smaller, including Oklahoma City, Austin, San Jose and Jacksonville.

Kansas City is growing – and showing good gains in median income – but overall slipping compared with its peers, Gonzalez said.

For instance, the area scores well in jobs in engineering, architecture, life sciences and high-tech generally but 27th among those 31 metro areas in young adults with bachelor’s degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. And 28th in the percentage of bachelor’s degrees in STEM overall.

On three “horizon goals” – a rising gross domestic product for the area, the number of quality jobs and median household income – Kansas City is in the middle of the pack.

Now what Gonzalez called “KC Rising 2.0” is putting a focus on areas such as quality education systems, transportation options, safe neighborhoods and housing choice, and even celebrating Kansas City’s unique character and culture. (We have a lot more going for us than barbecue, folks.)

Clearly there is work to be done, and Gonzalez mentioned the importance of workforce development, that is, workers trained for the good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow.

“We continue to be in an environment where that is a determining factor for the success of business,” Gonzalez said, adding that the area cannot count on just importing the talent it needs.

Still, she said, polling shows people think Kansas City will be prosperous in the year 2030 and that’s cause for optimism.

“We want to be a place that people choose to move to, and stay,” she said.

Quick hits

A Wendy’s is under construction in front of Menards on Little Blue Parkway, just across Interstate 70 from a Wendy’s that closed a couple years ago and still sits empty. … Two spikes this month have put the price of gas back up to just below where it was nearly three months ago. A gallon was at $2.54 in Kansas City on the Fourth of July, according to, and drifted steadily lower, to $2.28 on Labor Day. Prices rose that weekend and then again in the middle of the month when Saudi oil fields were attacked. That turned out to be not nearly as bad as initially feared, and the Saudis said they’d be back to full production in weeks, but gas prices have only fallen a few pennies. There’s a similar pattern but higher prices nationally – $2.80 on the Fourth of July, a steady drop to $2.55 in mid-September and $2.66 as of Tuesday.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.