KCMO already is a five-star city, Mayor Sly James says, but a new accelerator program could make it even better.
“Kansas City’s startup community is growing and innovating, but women and people of color are being left behind,” James says in a pitch video for Living Cities City Accelerator program.
A coalition of local organizations, led by the city, is representing KCMO in the competition to win a spot in the accelerator’s next cohort. Rival finalists include Atlanta, Cleveland, El Paso, Long Beach, Newark, New Orleans, Rochester, Stockton, and Tulsa.
Ratings for and comments on the competing cities’ pitches will be among the criteria used to pick up to five municipal participants for the program. Watch Kansas City’s pitch here and vote now.
— 1 Million Cups KC (@1MillionCupsKC) June 19, 2018
Selected finalist cities could be chosen by Living Cities the end of the week for the 12-month accelerator, said Rick Usher, assistant city manager for small business and entrepreneurship
The cohort is expected to focus on strategies cities can employ to build a seamless support system for local businesses to more easily grow and hire more people, with a particular focus on entrepreneurs of color.
Among such strategies: Embedding racial equity and inclusion in city-led supports for local businesses.
In March during his State of the City Address, James addressed the startup community’s challenge with reflecting the true demographics of the city around it.
“Most of my staff are women. And on our team are people of color, different sexual orientations, physical abilities, ages and religions,” he told a packed crowd in the auditorium at Plexpod Westport Commons. “Now take a look at your own organizations — if everyone looks the same, you may not be inclusive.”
“We must work to make sure KC is a community where today’s — and tomorrow’s — employment force wants to stay, put down roots, raise their families and help shape this city’s future,” James added.
City Accelerator offers its cohort members a tailored set of services that include: technical assistance and coaching; exposure to leading practices in city-led support for the business environment; financial or in-kind resources (up to $90,000 per site) to support experimentation with these practices potentially including capacity to support implementation; opportunity to interact with other cities in the city accelerator cohort; training and capacity-building around racial equity and inclusion; and national exposure as field-leading practitioners.
“Cities can and are making a difference by building and strengthening inclusive local business development ecosystems,” said Living Cities in a press release. “As conveners, investors, and regulators, local government has the power to create the environment where businesses owned by people of color can become a city’s high-growth employers of tomorrow.”
Not even Kansas City can do it alone, the organization said.
“Cities will only be able to tap into their full potential for creating jobs and income for their residents when they work in concert with partners to build and sustain an environment that will help businesses start, grow and thrive,” Living Cities said.
Progress in Kansas City has been too slow and incremental, James said in the pitch video.
“To really change the game, to level the playing field, we need a catalyst,” he said.
Kansas City’s partners in the effort include KCSourceLink, Digital Sandbox, Project United Knowledge, Justine Peterson micro lending program,Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.