After spending his summer in Kansas City, the metro reminds Alvin Gusman a lot of his hometown, Austin, he said.
The Texas A&M student is in the last two weeks of his 10-week Equity in Economic Development Fellowship with the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDCKC), reflecting on the experience.
“I’ve actually really enjoyed Kansas City so far,” he explained. “Immediately after I got here, I kind of noticed that I was getting the same vibes as I get in Austin: a lot of natural art, a lot of unique restaurants and stores, and kind of that weird, quirky feeling but in a good way.”
The business ecosystem is also comparable, said Gusman.
“I think it’s really cool that Kansas City is up and coming in the tech and online industry, whether it be data centers, but also things like Meta is coming,” he said. “That’s really cool. Because like I said, I found a lot of similarities between Kansas City and Austin. … Five years ago even, Austin was a lot different than it is now and I kind of see Kansas City about to get on that path.”
Click here to read more about Meta’s plans for Kansas City and the expected impact.
Kansas City is making a lot of big changes, he noted, including building a new airport terminal — which he was able to tour and said is amazing — and making preparations for hosting World Cup games in 2026.
“There’s just a whole lot of really good things going on in Kansas City,” he added.
Gusman has spent the summer learning the ins and outs of EDCKC. He said he’s gotten the opportunity to rotate through all of the departments — business development, strategic initiatives, and land development.
“(I’ve got to) pretty much get a taste of everything that’s done at EDC,” he explained. “I’ve got to work on different TIF (tax increment financing) plans and expiration and things like that and have the opportunity to even present at the Neighborhood Planning and Development Council in City Hall, which was really cool. And then at the same time, I will get out of the office a lot with the (business development officers) and go visit businesses or go to meetings, conferences, luncheons, all that kind of thing — just network and get a lot of skills that are really important in the professional world.”
EDCKC was one of 10 organizations selected by the International Economic Development Council to host one of the Equity in Economic Development fellows. This is the first year for the program.
“Equity is ingrained in all that we do at EDCKC,” said Heather Brown, in a statement as interim president and CEO of the EDCKC earlier Gusman’s fellowship. “We’re thrilled to have Alvin join us for the summer and plan to continue supporting this important IEDC program.”
Gusman, who is an economics major at Texas A&M, has been around the world of economic development most of his life; his mom works in the field in Austin.
“Austin’s really changing fast,” he said. “Honestly, every time I go back now, I see a different neighborhood. It’s hard to recognize some places, it’s just changing so much. So I kind of got to see all the important work that I noticed going on, hearing it firsthand through my mom.”
On top of economic development, Gusman is also intrigued by real estate and sales, he said, and working at EDCKC has allowed him to explore those interests.
“I pick their brains about everything,” he added, “like (Steven Anthony, executive director of business development at the EDCKC) has experience in the real estate world and he went to Georgetown for his MBA, which is something that I think is amazing. So I just got to pick his brain for as much wisdom as I could get. Everyone here comes from a unique background before they got into economic development. So I’ve gotten to learn a lot more than I would have thought within the confines of EDC.”
One of his favorite memories of the summer, he said, was going to a board meeting at the National World World I Museum and getting to take a tour.
“I met some important people from around the community and got to network and that kind of stuff,” he continued. “But I’m also a history buff, so that was really cool.”
He also got to experience first-hand the barbecue rivalry between KC and Texas.
“I got introduced to the barbecue debate,” he said. “I didn’t realize Kansas City was such a hotspot for barbecue, but I got to test it out and I really liked it.”
Gusman’s experience has been so great in KC this summer that he said it’s possible he could end up back here one day.
“I actually definitely think I could,” he added. “I got really familiar with the city, just driving around to the point where I really don’t need directions anymore. I love how Kansas City has no traffic. And you don’t just hop on a boring highway to get places in Kansas City. There’s different roads and there’s just a new part of the city I see all the time. I really enjoyed my time in Kansas City.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.