Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kansas City: The Next Official Innovation Hub?



Something is stirring in the streets of America. Manufacturing and technological innovation are flourishing in cities all across the nation, and the government is taking notice. In the annual State of the Union address, President Obama called for the creation of 15 “Innovation Hubs” across the United States. Highlighting the power of 3-D printing to transform innovative efforts, President Obama also called on a renewed focus of emerging technology, technology jobs and manufacturing facilities to support them. In his own words,

“Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.”

It is an exciting time for technology startups and entrepreneurs, especially when the President of the United States announces financial and moral support for new ventures. Kansas City has been on the verge of becoming an unofficial technology hub, but now it seems within the realm of possibility for Kansas City to become an official Innovation Hub. Below are some reasons why Kansas City should be named one of the next Innovation Hubs:  

1.      Kansas City has the big players.
Within the metro area, companies like Sprint, Garmin, H&R Block and Google Fiber have been toiling away on innovative products. Garmin has innovated in navigation technology. Sprint has innovated in data consumption and mobile technology. H&R Block has teamed up with Think Big Partners to host a worldwide healthcare innovation competition known as Hackovate Health.  Google Fiber has innovated by creating the world’s fastest Internet connection and has drawn interest and buzz from startups across the nation. Cornerstone companies like these are big players in the world of innovation and entrepreneurialism, so the creation of an Innovation Hub in Kansas City would already have embedded support. 

2.      Kansas City has strong entrepreneurial organizations.
It’s no secret—Kansas City has many strong entrepreneurial organizations.  From powerhouse players like the Kauffman Foundation to startup accelerators and incubators like Think Big Partners, from coworking spaces like OfficePort, bizperc and BetaBlox to grassroots efforts like Red Nova Labs and Startup Village, KC has no lack of supporters, organizers and entrepreneurial advocates. 

3.      Kansas City is brimming over with hungry, innovative and lean startups.
An Innovation Hub in Kansas City wouldn’t mean starting from scratch because there’s already so much here. Dozens of startups populate the Kansas City metro area and each offers a unique contribution to the technology world. Creating an Innovation Hub in Kansas City will further increase the palpable, contagious energy of the Kansas City startup scene.

4.      The local government and universities are fully supportive of innovation.
The University of Missouri: Kansas City (UMKC) was recently awarded $1 million by the U.S. Department of Commerce to fund technology startups and innovation. UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said at the announcement, “This grant reinforces Kansas City’s position as ‘America’s Most Entrepreneurial City’ and the key role that the Innovation Center and UMKC play in achieving and maintaining that status.” Also present at the announcement were Kansas City mayor Sly James, Missouri governor Jay Nixon, and U.S. Representative Emmanuel Cleaver II, further illustrating regional support for innovative efforts.  Government officials in Kansas City have also expressed support in local entrepreneurship and innovation by creating LaunchKC and other initiatives. 

5.   Kansas City’s storied history is a prime example of American rebirth.
Kansas City has a long history of innovation, struggle and rebirth. Kansas City has at various times in its history fallen behind, caught back up, fallen behind again, only to surge to the forefront of possibility. This is a city with a story, a place with a history as one of America’s cornerstone cities. When things fall apart, Kansas City picks up the pieces and turns them into something new. With the worst of globalization’s effects seemingly behind Kansas City manufacturing and business, now is the time to continue to move forward, create jobs and continue building Kansas City as an entrepreneurial leader at the forefront of progress.

This is a special time in not just Kansas City, but the nation. Support for startups, technological innovation and entrepreneurialism is reaching an all-time high. Kansas City is an environment chock full of exciting opportunity, economic strength and potential. Perhaps it is time we start a rally to make Kansas City an Innovation Hub, solidifying its identity as a leader in innovation.

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