Kansas City is at a critical turning point. Even with its thriving startup community, the city hasn’t quite bounced back from the Great Recession like other major cities across the U.S.
Not only is there a skilled worker shortage in STEM fields like tech, but the median household income is falling and Kansas City’s economic and job output just isn’t meeting the levels of other cities of its size. In order to begin the process of strengthening and growing Kansas City’s economic base, city and business leaders across the region are collaborating on a project called KC Rising, a plan committed to getting Kansas City to invest in its future.
According to the official website, KC Rising puts forth a 20-year vision that, among other things, will encourage a “cycle of prosperity” where industries work together to ensure success and create a means for current business leadership to focus on opportunities for the next generation. The big theme of this plan? Sustainability, and if everything goes as planned, this 20-year vision may last much longer than two decades. KC Rising is a collaboration between the Kansas City Area Development Council, the Mid-America Regional Council and the Civic Council.
A key part of KC Rising is the KC Rise Fund, a large fund set to tackle the common complaint that there’s not enough capital to fund Kansas City’s local entrepreneurs.
“Capital is the engine, the oil and the glue of our economy,” Darcy Howe, managing director of the KC Rise Fund, said in an interview with Startland News. “When you don’t have capital, great ideas don’t happen. The idea of additional capital formation in Kansas City is really important. Hopefully, it will help grow the economy and make Kansas City grow more like our peer cities.”
The KC Rise Fund will be a co-investment model, which reduces risk. The fund will match Kansas City investors with appropriate venture capital firms. Local partners will invest at least $1 for every $5 invested by a venture capital firm, creating up to $120 million in funding that will go to Kansas City startups. As of April, the fund had more than $10 million in soft commitments.
Investors from across the region are already expressing interest in the concept, attracting entities locally including JE Dunn, Great Plains Energy, the University of Kansas Medical Center and local families.
The KC Rise Fund wants to raise $20 million by the end of the year.