LaunchKC tops $2 million in grants to tech start-ups

2018 LaunchKC grant recipients share $500.00.

LaunchKC judges awarded $500,000 in grants to nine tech start-up businesses on Friday, following a months-long competition designed to attract and retain tech entrepreneurs in Kansas City.

This year’s grants competition elevated LaunchKC to the $2 million mark in grants to 38 different entrepreneurs over four years.

“This is a tremendous milestone as we demonstrate our commitment to attracting, growing and retaining startup businesses in Downtown Kansas City,” said Mike Hurd, spokesman for LaunchKC, an initiative of the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corporation.

The nine winners, including five from Greater Kansas City were selected Friday afternoon from a pool of 20 finalists. Each of the final 20 presented their business pitches that morning to LaunchKC judges and the Techweek Kansas City audience at Union Station.

Grant winners were announced Friday afternoon at a special LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City awards ceremony at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.

Ag Voice from Atlanta, GA, was only the second, $100,000 grand prize recipient in LaunchKC history. It is a mobile voice-interaction service designed for food and agriculture professionals to capture insights on the go. By using proprietary analytics and processing of raw voice files including captured time stamps and location data, users can improve productivity and workflow management, increase documentation accuracy, and gain valuable insights to optimize the use of resources in crop and animal production for a sustainability and environmental impact.

Another $400,000 was awarded on Friday in $50,000 parcels to eight entrepreneurs, including:

Drew Solomon, right, begins the LaunchKC awards ceremony on Friday afternoon at No Other Pub In the Power & Light District.

“Each of the 20 finalists were very strong contenders for LaunchKC’s grants, as well as for building strong, economically successful businesses,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president for business job development at the EDC and chair of the LaunchKC competition.

Today’s announcement marks the culmination of weeks of application reviews and scoring by a panel of more than 35 business and financial leaders, who volunteered their time to thoughtfully narrow the field from 586 applicants – up 32 percent from 2017 – to the 20 finalists who competed on Friday.

“LaunchKC attracted more than 2,000 applications from throughout the nation and the world in our four years of competition with tech entrepreneurs,” said Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “This year’s awards mean we have reached $2 million mark.

“We believe in entrepreneurship and we believe these start-ups have a better chance to success in Kansas City,” Hurd said.

In addition to cash grants, the nine winning applicants will receive a network of support, industry-specific mentor teams for each grant recipient; and opportunities to meet and learn from industry and entrepreneurial leaders in and around Kansas City – all designed to elevate their efforts to build high-growth, tech sector businesses and jobs in KCMO.

“LaunchKC is an economic game-changer in Kansas City through its support of start-up businesses. It creates jobs, attracts talents, unlocks value, and engages follow-in investors,” Solomon said.

LaunchKC is a nonprofit, civic engine in the Kansas City entrepreneurial space. It is an initiative of the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corporation. The program is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, the sponsor honor roll includes:

STRATEGIC SPONSORS

  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri

VISIONARY SPONSORS

  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; and the William T. Kemper Foundation

CONTRIBUTING SPONSORS

  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development

EMERGING SPONSORS

  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group

DOWNTOWN CIRCLE

  • Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management.

www.launchkc.org * @Launch_KC

NASA leader & LaunchKC Pitch Day are on tap for Friday

Kira Blackwell, NASA.

An executive from the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will “launch” the annual LaunchKC Pitch Day with an opening keynote address on Friday, Oct. 12 at Union Station.

Kira Blackwell, Program Executive, Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA will speak to the audience at 8 a.m. Friday, immediately before the start of the LaunchKC Pitch Day in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station.

Blackwell will share insights into NASA iTech, a year-long effort to find innovative ideas that address challenges and fill gaps in five critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future exploration, including big data and data mining; artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic capabilities; revolutionary concepts for communications; medical breakthrough; and x-factor innovations.

The NASA-inspired keynote falls on the fifth and final day of the Techweek Kansas City conference. Friday is primarily focused on LaunchKC, the the final round of the fourth annual grants competition for tech startups that has been a part of the Techweek KC experience, since its first local conference in 2015.

“We are delighted to welcome Kira Blackwell and NASA to ‘launch’ the Pitch Day events,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business and job development for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and competition chair for LaunchKC.

The LaunchKC Pitch Day marks the final day of the annual grants competition. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, the 20 LaunchKC finalists will make their  business plan presentations to a panel of LaunchKC judges AND the Techweek Kansas City audience. Solomon said Blackwell has agreed to join the panel of judges.

“NASA iTech and LaunchKC are cut from the same innovative cloth – both are showcases for entrepreneurs who are looking to change the trajectory of the world through their innovative thinking and business plans,” Solomon said.

NASA iTech is a program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and works in collaboration with The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in support of the Agency’s Mission. This collaborative effort identifies and fosters innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges agency-wide.

LaunchKC is a national grants competition designed to attract tech entrepreneurs to compete for non-dilutive grants and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri.

“LaunchKC has attracted more than 2,100 applications from throughout the nation and the world during our four years of competitions,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council.

LaunchKC judges worked for six weeks to narrow the 2018 field of entrepreneurs from 586 applicants to the final 20, who will compete on the big stage this Friday, including:

  • AgVoice – Atlanta, Ga. – Ag Tech
  • Bluepoint2 – Leawood, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Boddle Learning – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Bungii – Overland Park, Kan. – Mobile Technology
  • Case Helper – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • Digs – Chicago, Ill. – Fin Tech
  • Erkios Systems – Kansas City, Mo. – Network Security
  • Just Play Sports Solutions – Lawrence, Kan. – Cloud Services
  • Listing, LLC – Kansas City, Mo. – Real Estate Tech
  • MindSport – Overland Park, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Motega Health – Lawrence, Kan. – Health Tech
  • OpenCities – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • PlaBook – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Project Ray – Yokneam, Israel – Mobile Technology
  • Realquantum – Overland Park, Kan. – Fin Tech
  • Ripe.io – San Francisco, Calif. – Ag Tech
  • SaRA Health – Kansas City, Mo. – Health Tech
  • SmartBridge – Bethesda, Md. – Health Tech
  • Strayos – St. Louis, Mo. – Data Analytics
  • Venture360 – Lee’s Summit, Mo. – Fin Tech

The LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City schedule on Friday in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station will look like this:

  • 8 a.m. Keynote address by Kira Blackwell, NASA
  • 9 a.m.-12 p.m. LaunchKC Pitch Day of all 20 competition finalists
  • Noon-3 p.m. Judges meet in private to score presentations and decide who will receive grant money
  • 3:30 p.m. LaunchKC to announce winners of 2018 grant competition

Tickets to the LaunchKC Pitch Day – including Blackwell’s keynote address – are part of the Techweek Kansas City ticket package, and are available right here.

Also, make sure you download the Attendify app to view the entire week’s schedule and see the location of every session. We will have multiple sessions in multiple areas of Union Station. The Attendify app is the best way to confirm the location and time of the session you wish to attend. Link to App: https://attendify.com/app/nmy2xr/

See below for a summary of the complete Techweek 2018 schedule.

 

LaunchKC is an initiative of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City. It is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, that honor roll includes:

 STRATEGIC SPONSORS

  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri

VISIONARY SPONSORS

  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; William T. Kemper Foundation; and Techweek

CONTRIBUTING SPONSORS

  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development

EMERGING SPONSORS

  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group.

DOWNTOWN CIRCLE

  • Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management.

For more information, contact Mike Hurd at mike@downtownkc.org or visit www.launchkc.org and www.techweek.com.

Moment has arrived for Techweek 2018 + LaunchKC

The fourth annual Techweek in Kansas City conference – featuring the LaunchKC grants competition for tech entrepreneurs – is here!

Amanda Signorelli, Techweek.

Techweek returns to KC today (Monday, Oct. 8) and runs through Friday. The fourth annual LaunchKC competition is the closing act of Techweek 2018 on Friday, as 20 finalists will pitch their business plans to a panel of judges and the Techweek audience at Union Station.

“Techweek 2018 in Kansas City is shaping up to be one of the best yet,” said Amanda Signorelli, CEO of the Chicago-based conference + festival producers. “Techweek brings a great tech offering this year including the 2018 Techweek KC EXPO, which will host 100 booths of exciting tech companies from startups to enterprise level companies.”

Techweek has introduced a new mobile app for Techweek KC 2018.  Information about Big Data, Fintech, Blockchain, Diversity in Tech, Public Policy and Tech, and Smart Cities, Techstars Demo Day, Founder’s House, and the Launch KC $500,000 grant competition can all be found in the new app, which is available through Attendify at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/attendify/id1262403617?mt=8

Kicking off the week today (Monday) is a new feature, the KC Mayoral Tech Forum (at 10 a.m.) which will showcase candidates for the 2019 Kansas City, Missouri mayor’s race. It will cover issues important to the region’s tech industry, and will be an event you won’t want to miss. The forum will be hosted by Ryan Weber, KC Tech Council president.

Union Station will serve as home base for this year’s Techweek, including conference sessions and KC EXPO on Monday through Wednesday and the LaunchKC competition on Friday. The Midland Theater will be the focus of activities on Thursday, as the focus turns to the Techstars Demo Day and programming on the Digital Crossroads.

Kira Blackwell, NASA.

Friday will be dedicated to LaunchKC activities, including an opening keynote address now set for 8 a.m. by Kira Blackwell, Program Executive, Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA.

LaunchKC finalists will begin making their pitches to the judges at 9 a.m., and wrapping up around Noon. in the Extreme Screen theater at Union Station.

The panel of judges, which will include Ms. Blackwell, will break for the next two hours to discuss the finalists, score all 20 of the presenters, and come to an agreement on the top nine entrepreneurs.  The nine grant winners will be announced at approximately 3:30 p.m. that day at a site to be announced early next week.

“We are thrilled with the quality of our 20 finalists,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “This year’s Pitch Day promises to be the best one yet!”

See below for a summary of the complete Techweek 2018 schedule. Tickets are available right here.

Also, make sure you download the Attendify app to view the entire week’s schedule and see the location of every session. We will have multiple sessions in multiple areas of Union Station. The Attendify app is the best way to confirm the location and time of the session you wish to attend. Link to App: https://attendify.com/app/nmy2xr/

NY Times spotlights Union Station – ‘Rescued from the Edge’

Union Station, Downtown Kansas City

The New York Times has shined its spotlight on seven Midwestern rail depots, including Kansas City’s iconic Union Station. The story, “Grimy, Glorious, Gone. The Divergent Path of 7 Train Stations,” appeared in The Times on Saturday. 

The New York Times: “We traveled to seven rail depots in the nation’s middle. The stations, some remade and others crumbling, reflect the trajectories of their towns.” The feature shined a spotlight on depots in Gary, Ind.; Ashtabula, Ohio; Cincinnati; Perry, Ark.; Creston, Iowa; Joplin, Mo.; and, of course, Union Station in Kansas City.

The Union Station portion of the story appears below:

“KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If ever there was a model of a decaying station brought back to vibrancy, it would be in Kansas City.

Singers film music videos in Union Station’s Grand Plaza. Travelers board Amtrak trains bound for Los Angeles or St. Louis. Schoolchildren arrive by the busload to tour its science museum. And the building, the country’s largest train station outside New York when it opened, has been at the center of a renaissance in Kansas City’s formerly barren downtown.

“Just a decade ago, the station was on the verge of bankruptcy and closure. Its renovation in the 1990s, funded by taxpayers in both Kansas and Missouri, was seen as an architectural success, but a financial failure. The nonprofit group that ran the property was millions of dollars in debt and unable to pay its utility bills.

“‘It was the single best economic development tool in the history of Kansas City and the worst business model on the face of the earth,’  said George Guastello, the chief executive who brought in new tenants and saved Union Station from closing.”

Guastello responded to the article by writing, “Thanks to the visionary leadership and support from so many in Kansas City, our Union Station was saved and remade into what is today, an internationally-recognized and awarded masterpiece focused on Science Education, Preservation of History and Celebration of Community. Even better, we’ve only just begun to realize our full potential. ”

To read more about the other six train stations, check out Grimy, Glorious, Gone. in The New York Times.

Development professional to lead Port KC

Jon Stephens

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.

KC Streetcar marks its 5 millionth ride in 28 months

The KC Streetcar recorded its 5 millionth ride last weekend in its first 28 months of services to Downtown KC.

The KC Streetcar logged its 5 millionth ride last weekend, as Downtown Kansas City was flying high with activities and events. This milestone was reached in less than 2 ½ years of service, since the streetcar became operational in May 2016.

In its 28 months of operations, the KC Streetcar has traveled 305,128 miles with a daily ridership average of 5,806. Each streetcar averaged 76,282 miles and 34,673 trips per vehicle. The summer months tend to be the busiest for streetcar ridership, with July 2018 being the highest ridership month to date with 262,593 total rides, that’s an increase in 31,000 rides from the previous July, according to Donna Mandelbaum, communications director for the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA).

The highest ridership day to date was July 6, 2018, with 19,181 total rides.

Ridership is important but so is safety and reliability. The KC Streetcar has an average on-time performance of nearly 95 percent and an employee safety record of 863 total days injury free. The KCSA monitors and tracks daily ridership on board the KC Streetcar.

Streetcar ridership, otherwise known as “Unlinked Passenger Trips”, is the national standard used by the Federal Transit Administration for calculating usage on public transportation systems across the county.

KC Streetcar ridership is calculated by Automated Passenger Counters located over each door of each streetcar vehicle. Passengers are counted each time they board vehicles no matter how many vehicles they use to travel from their origin to their destination.

More information about KC Streetcar ridership can be found http://kcstreetcar.org/ridership.

As response to the demand in ridership, the KC Streetcar Authority ordered two more streetcar vehicles for the Downtown route. Those vehicles should arrive in 2019. Later this year, streetcar shelters will be installed at the North Loop stops at 7th and Main Street as a direct response to ridership in that area.

Additionally, the KC Streetcar Authority, along with the City of Kansas City, the KC Area Transportation Authority and Port KC, are planning for future streetcar extensions north towards Berkley Riverfront, as well as the Main Street Extension to UMKC.

 

NASA leader to deliver keynote at LaunchKC Day

Kira Blackwell, NASA.

An executive from the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will “launch” the annual LaunchKC Pitch Day with an opening keynote address on Friday, Oct. 12 at Union Station.

Kira Blackwell, Program Executive, Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA will speak to the audience at 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, immediately before the start of the LaunchKC Pitch Day in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station.

Blackwell will share insights into NASA iTech, a year-long effort to find innovative ideas that address challenges and fill gaps in five critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future exploration, including big data and data mining; artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic capabilities; revolutionary concepts for communications; medical breakthrough; and x-factor innovations.

The NASA-inspired keynote falls on the fifth and final day of the Techweek Kansas City conference. Friday is primarily focused on LaunchKC, the fourth annual grants competition for tech startups that has been a part of the Techweek KC experience, since its first local conference in 2015.

“We are delighted to welcome Kira Blackwell and NASA to ‘launch’ the Pitch Day events,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business and job development for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and competition chair for LaunchKC.

The LaunchKC Pitch Day marks the final day of the annual grants competition. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 the 20 LaunchKC finalists will make their  business plan presentations to a panel of LaunchKC judges AND the Techweek Kansas City audience. Solomon said Blackwell has agreed to join the panel of judges.

“NASA iTech and LaunchKC are cut from the same innovative cloth – both are showcases for entrepreneurs who are looking to change the trajectory of the world through their innovative thinking and business plans,” Solomon said.

NASA iTech is a program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and works in collaboration with The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in support of the Agency’s Mission. This collaborative effort identifies and fosters innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges agency-wide.

LaunchKC is a national grants competition designed to attract tech entrepreneurs to compete for non-dilutive grants and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri.

“LaunchKC has attracted more than 2,100 applications from throughout the nation and the world during our four years of competitions,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “

LaunchKC announced its list of 20 finalists on Tuesday of this week. Judges worked for six weeks to narrow the field from 586 applicants to the final 20, who will compete on the big stage at Union Station on Oct. 12.

The finalists for the LaunchKC grants competition include:

  •  AgVoice – Atlanta, Ga. – Ag Tech
  • Bluepoint2 – Leawood, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Boddle Learning – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Bungii – Overland Park, Kan. – Mobile Technology
  • Case Helper – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • Digs – Chicago, Ill. – Fin Tech
  • Erkios Systems – Kansas City, Mo. – Network Security
  • Just Play Sports Solutions – Lawrence, Kan. – Cloud Services
  • Listing, LLC – Kansas City, Mo. – Real Estate Tech
  • MindSport – Overland Park, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Motega Health – Lawrence, Kan. – Health Tech
  • OpenCities – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • PlaBook – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Project Ray – Yokneam, Israel – Mobile Technology
  • Realquantum – Overland Park, Kan. – Fin Tech
  • Ripe.io – San Francisco, Calif. – Ag Tech
  • SaRA Health – Kansas City, Mo. – Health Tech
  • SmartBridge – Bethesda, Md. – Health Tech
  • Strayos – St. Louis, Mo. – Data Analytics
  • Venture360 – Lee’s Summit, Mo. – Fin Tech

The LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City schedule on Friday, Oct. 12 in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station will look like this:

  • 8 a.m. Keynote address by Kira Blackwell, NASA
  • 9 a.m.-12 p.m. LaunchKC Pitch Day of all 20 competition finalists
  • Noon-3 p.m. Judges meet in private to score presentations and decide who will receive grant money
  • 3:30 p.m. LaunchKC to announce winners of 2018 grant competition

Tickets to the LaunchKC Pitch Day – including Blackwell’s keynote address – are part of the Techweek Kansas City ticket package. Techweek will run Oct. 8-12 at Union Station.

LaunchKC is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, the sponsor honor roll includes:

 STRATEGIC SPONSORS

  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri

VISIONARY SPONSORS

  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; William T. Kemper Foundation; Lead Bank; and Techweek

CONTRIBUTING SPONSORS

  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; Lead Bank; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development

EMERGING SPONSORS

  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group.

DOWNTOWN CIRCLE

Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management.

For more information, contact Mike Hurd at mike@downtownkc.org or visit www.launchkc.org and www.techweek.com.

Downtown Office Summit sets course for Oct. 17 event

The Downtown Council announced plans today for a fall summit meeting on the hottest element of Downtown’s escalating revitalization, the commercial office marketplace.

The second annual Downtown Office Summit is set for 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at BNIM’s Crown Center office at 2460 E. Pershing Road, #100. It will feature a number of expert panelists and speakers, along with a powerhouse pair of bookend leaders to open and close the event.

The Hon. Sylvester James, Mayor of the City of Kansas City, Missouri, will serve as the keynote speaker and City Manager Troy Schulte will deliver closing remarks and a call to action. The Office Summit is expected to attract community and civic leaders, real estate developers, building owners and future Downtown office tenants.

“Downtown’s renaissance has entered the critical third wave of revitalization,” said Nate Orr, chairman of the Downtown Council Board of Directors and Partner at Spencer Fane LLP. “After revitalizing the residential sector and making major investments in visitor amenities, the rebirth of the office market is paramount to sustaining the momentum.

“This third wave is an economic game-changer that will elevate momentum at creating jobs, attracting talent, unlocking value and engaging private investment in Downtown.”

The Office Summit is designed to provide a better understanding of the Downtown Office Market today and to chart a course to greater success tomorrow, according to Gib Kerr, co-chair of the event and Director of Capital Markets in Kansas and Missouri for Cushman & Wakefield.

“Downtown Kansas City is one of the fastest growing downtowns in America,” Kerr said. “And, that means we are in the thick of competing for businesses – and the talent to elevate those companies – with large and small cities all across the country.”

The Downtown Office Summit will feature three components at BNIM on Oct. 17:

  • 2 p.m. – Office Summit Expo – a networking opportunity to learn more about the commercial office marketplace and the people who represent Downtown properties, opportunities and trends.
  • 3 p.m. – Office Summit Program – a series of speakers and panel discussions that illustrate the challenges and opportunities facing Downtown Kansas City in light of the rapid growth of commercial businesses marketplace, along with residents and visitors in Downtown. Kevin Collison, editor of CityScene KC, will serve as the event moderator. Highlights include…
    • Keynote address by Mayor Sly James
    • Market overview by Summit co-chairs Michael Klamm, Managing Director of CBRE and Gib Kerr of Cushman & Wakefield
    • Development panel featuring experts from Platform Ventures, 3D Development, Crown Center, Lathrop Gage, AREA Real Estate Advisors and EPOCH.
    • Tenant panel with leaders to share insights about the Downtown marketplace from Benton Lloyd & Chung, Centric, ACI Boland, BNIM, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Park University.
    • Summary & closing remarks by Troy Schulte, City Manager
  • 5:30 p.m. – Cocktail reception and networking to follow.

Tickets are now available from the Downtown Council via Eventbrite. The inaugural Office Summit last year sold out quickly, so you are encouraged to act soon.

The Downtown Office Summit is produced by the Downtown Council of Kansas City in partnership with the City of Kansas City, Missouri and the Economic Development Corporation. The summit is presented by Bank of America, BNIM, Crown Center and Lathrop Gage LLP.

For questions or more information, contact Julie Shippy at the Downtown Council, jules@downtownkc.org or 816-421-1539.

Construction to begin on Downtown portion of Prospect MAX

Future Prospect Avenue MAX stations will feature an interactive smart kiosk, real-time bus arrival information, shelter protection from the elements and enhanced lighting for improved safety and greater visibility.

Construction is set to begin next week on the Downtown portion of the Prospect MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, the Kansas City Regional Transit Authority announced today.

The $55.8 million project will bring enhanced transit service along Kansas City’s 10-mile Prospect Avenue corridor from Downtown to 75th Street. The Downtown portion of the project includes construction of transit facilities at 12th Street and Grand Boulevard and at Petticoat Lane & Main Street.

Work is expected to begin Monday, Aug. 27 at 12th & Grand and on Monday, Sept. 10 at Petticoat & Main. Construction at both locations is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.

Downtown bus stops will be temporarily relocated during construction:

  • Eastbound 12th at Grand boarding will move to 12th at McGee Street
  • Northbound Grand at 12th boarding will move south, closer to 13th Street
  • Westbound 11th at Petticoat boarding will move east, closer to Walnut Street

No disruption to bus routes is expected. Pedestrians are encouraged to follow the signs showing safe walking paths around construction to the temporary bus stops.

Once complete, the Downtown transit facilities will offer:

  • Improved pedestrian sidewalks
  • Level boarding MAX platforms for quicker boarding
  • Snow-ice melt system for platforms
  • Real-time arrivals on interactive kiosks
  • Bike parking
  • Modified bike lane on Grand to improve safety for cyclists
  • Ticket vending machine to speed boarding at 12th & Grand
  • More compact shelter design to allow more space for pedestrians at Petticoat and Main

Reducing bicycle-bus conflicts at 12th & Grand is a priority for the project. A “floating bus stop” will be installed with bicycle traffic flowing behind the bus shelter. It will be the first time this type of design will be implemented in Kansas City.

“KCATA and the City of Kansas City, MO, worked diligently to develop a design that is safer for all users,” KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen said. “It’s an improvement for transit users, pedestrians and cyclists. We’re excited to be making these much-needed improvements to Downtown.

“We hope it becomes a model for future bicycle-transit collaboration.”

MAX is RideKC’s brand for Bus Rapid Transit. KCATA operates two MAX BRT lines: Main MAX (opened 2005) and Troost MAX (opened 2011). Prospect MAX is projected to be complete in fall 2019.

Downtown welcomes Crossroads Preparatory Academy High School

Crossroads Preparatory Academy Principal Kirsten Brown (left) and Dean Johnson (right), Crossroads Charter Schools Executive Director, address the audience of Downtown stakeholders on Monday evening, as they prepare to cut the ribbon on the permanent home for the senior high school.

The Crossroads Charter Schools celebrated the opening its newest facility on Monday with a ribbon-cutting and tours of the permanent home of Crossroads Preparatory Academy at 816 Broadway.

Located in the heart of the Kansas City’s Garment District, the Historic Thayer Building is now home to nearly 200, 7th through 10th graders. It is expected to grow to serve 600, 7th to 12th graders by 2025.

“The passion the Crossroads Preparatory Academy (CPA) staff and scholars bring to this historic building is both exciting and contagious,” said Kirsten Brown, CPA principal. “

Teachers, parents and community members are eager to collaboratively transform the secondary educational experience and outcomes for the scholars of Kansas City through the work that will be done at CPA.”

Crossroads announced it would locate CPA in the Historic Thayer Building in February of this year. Since then, phase one of the building renovation has been completed, including unique learning spaces for 7th and 8th graders on one level and 9th and 10th graders on another. Future phases of the building renovation will include spaces for visual and performing arts, STEM labs, “maker spaces” and other common spaces within the building and construction of a gymnasium on the vacant land at 9th and Washington Streets.

“We partnered with MC Realty, BNIM Architects and Turner Construction on this project,” said Dean Johnson, executive director of Crossroads Charter Schools. “Through that partnership we’ve been able to achieve our goal of creating a space where all of our students could embrace and live out our core values of high expectations, authentic learning, creative culture and educational equity.”

With the opening of the permanent home for CPA, Johnson said Crossroads is also seeking other partnerships that further its core values.

One of those is the Crossroads Community Collaborative, an innovative community partnership that prepares students for real-world experiences. The Collaborative will supply talent to local businesses and organizations by providing integrated learning opportunities and equipping students with employable skills.

“Far too often skills in schools are taught in isolation and students are graduating without having the authentic experiences that demonstrate the connection between what they learn in the classroom to what they need in real life,” said Tysie McDowell-Ray, chief academic officer at Crossroads Charter Schools. “This Collaborative provides a solution to this problem and enhances the workforce by allowing our students to give back to their communities by solving real problems and completing real projects that meet industry needs.”

There are five different Partner Levels through which organizations can join the Collaborative, including Industry Mentor, Career Host and Project Supervisor. For more information about the Collaborative or to sign up email jgreason@crossroadsschoolskc.org.

About Crossroads Charter Schools

Crossroads Charter Schools is a network of three schools, which offers a dynamic K-12 education in the heart of Downtown Kansas City: Crossroads Academy – Central Street (K-6); Crossroads Academy – Quality Hill (K-5): and Crossroads Preparatory Academy (7-12). Currently serving nearly 800 students, Crossroads Charter Schools offer a unique model that emphasizes community engagement and 21st Century Learning. More information about Crossroads Charter Schools is available at crossroadsschoolskc.org.

Economic incentives produce 3.8-to-1 return citywide

A comprehensive study of economic incentives reveals that from 2006-2015 the City of Kansas City received a positive return on investments made by incentives programs, with each incentive dollar generating $3.83 in additional tax revenue. The City delivered the results of a comprehensive analysis of incentives on Thursday afternoon.

Kansas City commissioned the study with the goal of examining the historic impact of economic incentives on creating jobs, eliminating blight and generating new investment.

“This study has delivered a first-of-its kind look at the true value of incentives and their transformative effects on Kansas City,” said Mayor Sly James. “The information in this study helps ensure that future decisions regarding incentives are data-driven, not anecdotal, and shows how incentives have been essential in growing our city’s thriving economy and exciting momentum.”

In addition to the 3.8-1 return on investment, a presentation to the City Council on Thursday reported other significant successes in Kansas City during the 10-year study period:

  • Average number of jobs created across all industries was 23,430
  • Per capita income increased by an average of $3,906
  • Total personal income increased by an average of $2.29 billion
  • Average increase of $4.75 billion in total business sales
  • Average increase in economic activity of approximately $2.66 billion

“The study shows that using incentives accelerates the rate at which assessed value increases,” said City Manager Troy Schulte, “The data validates that incentives work, and we want developers to use this data to take their projects into economically-distressed areas that need them the most.”

The City hired the Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) to independently design, conduct and deliver original research, results and data analysis of the city’s use of incentives.  The contract was managed by the city’s Office of Economic Development, a division of the City Manager’s Office.

“This analysis will also increase transparency and accountability by establishing a system to capture, maintain, and report economic development project data in a format that makes it easily accessible to policy-makers and the public,” said Kerrie Tyndall, Assistant City Manager for Economic Development.

No study like this has ever been conducted in Kansas City, and researchers faced a huge challenge from the very start. Data was spread across multiple counties and agencies, all of which tracked the information using different formats and storage systems. A key recommendation of the study is to standardize record-keeping across local jurisdictions.

Another benefit of this study is that the City now has a master set of data about incentives use, which becomes our new baseline for the future. We also have recommendations on the best metrics to use to evaluate success of incentives, as well as the best ways to monitor and report incentive programs to ensure transparency and accountability.

The study took longer than expected to complete, however, it delivered three studies for the price of one:

  • An economic impact analysis using only KCMO data
  • A geographic analysis using tax data from overlapping taxing jurisdictions
  • A process improvement analysis with recommendations to enhance data collection, data management and reporting of incentives data for the future.

The consulting team created the geographic analysis to determine where property values increased over time and where incentive usage occurred the most. The team’s unique approach layered data from various public sources to create a map of incentives, blight, and property value. The results of the geographic analysis were combined with other tax information to determine the impact of incentives.

“The CDFA consulting team was pleased to work with the City of Kansas City in evaluating the use of incentives,” said Katie Kramer, Vice President at the Council of Development Finance Agencies and project lead for the incentives study. “Not only did the city see a positive return on their investment, they did so during the period of the Great Recession, which is a testament to the commitment of the leadership and the economic vitality of the city.”

Other recommendations for managing incentives include:

  • Annual updates to the new master data set, using city and county sources
  • Incorporate data on incentive outcomes into KC Stat
  • Track and report actual and projected project performance separately
  • Work with the community to select additional economic indicators to track

This study is not an audit of the individual performance of incentivized projects, but it’s important to note that many projects incentivized in the 1990’s have recently matured, meaning the incentive period has ended and the companies are now paying full taxes.

“We are now seeing the benefits of those early investments,” said City Manager Schulte. “Residents should notice that increased tax revenues are now flowing into school districts, the library, city and other taxing jurisdictions to provide important services as the city grows.”

The full report is posted on the city’s website at  http://kcmo.gov/incentivesstudy.

For more information about the report, contact Kerrie Tyndall, Assistant City Manager for Economic Development at 816-513-6539 or kerrie.tyndall@kcmo.org

$95 million makeover to bring new glory to historic Star building

A food hall, boutique grocer and office complex along 18th Street is planned along with renovation of the historic Kansas City Star building. (Image from 3D Development)

Courtesy, Kevin Collison, CityScene KC

(Update: Development agreement approved unanimously by City Council Thursday)

A $95 million redevelopment plan for the former Kansas City Star property that includes renovating the historic structure, and building a boutique grocery store and marketplace above a 500-space underground garage has cleared its first hurdle at City Hall.

Developer Vincent Bryant laid out his ambitious plan to a Kansas City Council committee Thursday, saying he wanted to make the former Star campus the economic center of the Crossroads area.

In a prepared statement, he said, “We hope this development will be the trailhead of an 18th Street Corridor that extends connection from the Crossroads east to Vine Street.

“Physically and architecturally, these buildings are visual landmarks that offer a nod to Kansas City’s rich history, a history we intend to highlight and build upon for generations to come.”

Bryant and his local ownership group purchased the newspaper building at 1729 Grand last year for $12 million from McClatchy, the Star’s owner.

The historic Kansas City Star building opened in 1911 and was expanded in 1924. Current newspaper employees have been consolidated in the green Press Pavilion building in upper corner. (Image from 3D Development)

Key components of the redevelopment plan which covers the block between Grand and McGee, from 17th to 18th streets:

  • Renovation of the 225,000 square-foot existing building into office, data center and retail space. The historic structure was designed by Jarvis Hunt and opened in 1911. An addition was built in 1924.
  • Construction of a 45,000 square-foot food hall, boutique grocery store and office complex on the south side of the property along 18th Street. It would be separated from the historic building by about 90 feet. The three-level grocery and office building would be on the northwest corner of 18th and McGee, the food hall would be oriented toward the northeast corner of 18th and Grand.
  • Construction of a 500-space, four-level garage beneath the food hall and grocery/office building. Bryant said building underground would avoid blocking views of the historic building.
  • Eventual construction of a three-story office building at the north side of the property at the northeast corner of 17th and Grand.
  • A sports pub with several outdoor sand volleyball courts on the north side of the property at the northwest corner of 17th and McGee.

The project also includes an event hall, dining hall for tenants and guests, and outdoor meeting space.

To read the complete story with more images, go to CityScene KC.