The Board of Commissioners of Port KC announced on Tuesday that it has selected long-time economic development and civic executive Jon Stephens as President & CEO.
With more than two decades of leadership experience spanning development, tourism and civic affairs Stephens comes to this new role from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County & KCK, where he served most recently as Director of Economic Development. Stephens begins his new role at Port KC on Monday, Oct. 8.
Dana Gibson, commission chair, and CiCi Rojas, commissioner, led the eight-month search process with support from the full commission and recruitment firm Fenaroli & Associates.
“A comprehensive nationwide search for the next dynamic leader of Port KC lead us to our own backyard and Jon,” Gibson said. “We were drawn to Jon because of his track record in economic development, his creative vision and his deep knowledge of Kansas City. Port KC is poised to accomplish great things for our city with our new dynamic leadership. ”
A native Kansas Citian, Stephens grew up in the Hickman Mills area and attended the University of Missouri. Beginning his career in advertising and marketing, he turned those skills to executive and community leadership, first as President of the Kansas City Power & Light District, then as President & CEO of Visit KC and several other interim executive and consulting roles through his firm, Rockhill Strategic.
“Playing a key role in the continued transformation of Kansas City is simply a dream come true,” he said. “As a city we have ignored the river for too long. It is one of our most vital assets. We must continue a thoughtful and lasting return of people, business, entertainment and economic vitality to the riverfront.”
Key to his interest in the position was the capabilities of Port KC and continuing the greater community momentum, Stephens said.
“Kansas City has made significant advances in the last decade. Downtown revitalization, renewed neighborhood investment, the new KCI terminal, the Streetcar and embracing new smart tech,” he said. “Port KC, with its extensive capabilities in development, logistics and planning has possibly the greatest opportunity of any organization in Kansas City to not simply support these generational projects, but to play a lead role in guiding the destiny of our city into the next century for the benefit of all.”
In his community roles, Stephens has also served on the executive planning teams for major bi-state initiatives such as the KC2016 bid for the Republican National Convention, the bid for the Amazon HQ2 project and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
City Manager Troy Schulte said he was impressed with Stephens’ knowledge of the issues and his commitment to serving as a collaborative community leader.
“Port KC’s work is vital to the economic growth of our city and region,” Schulte said. “With Jon in that chair, I am confident that we have thoughtful visionary and collaborative leadership.”
Stephens is active in many local and industry organizations, including the Visit KC Board, Arts KC Board of Directors, ICSC, the American Cancer Society and many more. He is a frequent commentator on civic issues and appears regularly KCPT’s issues talk show Ruckus.