1. Kansas City
Officials in the greater Kansas City area, which encompasses the two cities with the same name separated by a state line, are on a mission to make the city synonymous with entrepreneurism. They seem to be well on their way.
Large companies that have made Kansas City their home include Sprint (S), H&R Block (HRB) and Hallmark. It also is home to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, with assets of $2 billion devoted to entrepreneurism and education. The foundation was established in 1966 by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Ewing Kauffman. Kauffman wanted the foundation to help young people get a quality education and recognize enterprise and individual talent as a way to spur the economy.
As a result of the Kaufman history, "We feel like we have a particularly strong claim to that and we have the assets to make that a reality," says Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jim Heeter. "This is a city that is built on entrepreneurism."Two years ago, the Chamber of Commerce reached out to the community to solicit ideas on how to better the city's community and create economic growth and jobs. After 182 ideas were submitted, the Chamber of Commerce announced in September 2011 the "Big 5 Ideas." Making Greater Kansas City the number one region in which to start and grow a business was third on the Big 5 list. To expand its entrepreneurial roots, the first phase of the Big 5 initiative was to bring awareness to the community of the overall initiative and to survey the community on what assets it already had and what was needed. This phase was completed in June and commemorated by a 10-day celebration of entrepreneurs. "We wanted to make a thorough inventory [of what the] small entrepreneurial ecosystem of Kansas City looked like," Heeter says. "It's even stronger than we thought. There are an extraordinary number of assets for small businesses and for those who would like to start a business." The next phase will gather those resources into a one-stop online shop for business owners. Heeter expects the website to be completed in the next few months. One of the most exciting initiatives to come to Kansas City is the rollout of Google Fiber. in late July, Google (GOOG) announced that it had chosen the Kansas City area to launch its broadband Internet service, making Kansas City the first area where Google's ultra-high speed Internet service would be available. "Already we're seeing entrepreneurs and small businesses locate in Kansas City or express interest in coming to Kansas City simply to take advantage" of the high bandwidth, Heeter says. "Kansas City is the first to have it and it starts now." Still for all the public outreach and promotional events to boost the cities' entrepreneurism, Heeter says there are also some very telling reasons why Kansas City and other cities must support startups and small companies. "Entrepreneurs and small businesses, without a doubt, are the leading creators of new jobs and economic growth in America and in every community. That is simply a fact. So if a community wants to choose success and economic growth and job creation it absolutely has to -- it is critically important -- to do everything possible to foster successful entrepreneurial businesses and assist the growth of its small businesses," Heeter says. He also emphasizes the need for cities like Kansas City to start competing on a global scale. "Entrepreneurism and the growth of small business is occurring all over the world. As a country, as a community like Kansas City, it is imperative we compete internationally and that means competing in establishing and growing entrepreneurial businesses, particularly in technology and bioscience," he adds. Besides tech and bioscience, Kansas City is also cultivating small manufacturers in the area.
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