REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: KANSAS CITY
“I just like Kansas City,” said Marco Santarelli, CEO and founder of Norada Real Estate Investments. Norada is active not just in the Kansas City metro area but also in five key markets in the surrounding area. “Of course, it’s not just a gut feeling. It’s the broad eco- nomic base, the relative afford- ability of housing in the area, population and job growth: the whole package,” he added. Santarelli is notoriously adamant about what he calls “market agnosticism,” which re- quires an investor to forego any emotional investment in a po- tential deal or market in order to evaluate by hard numbers alone. “It has to be about the economics and the fundamen- tals,” he explained, “and when those things stop making sense, you exit that market.” A BROAD BASE IN EVERY SENSE When Santarelli refers to Kansas City’s “broad base,” he’s referring to economic factors like housing growth, popula- tion growth, and job growth. However, he could just as well be speaking literally. The city has an area of more than 319 square miles, making it the 23rd-largest city by total area in the United
K ansas City has been full of personality from its earliest days. Whether blatantly opting out of Prohibition during the 1880s or engineering groundbreaking (for the time) construction of railroad bridges that would establish the municipality as one of the busiest train centers in the country just before the turn of the 20th century, the city has always had its own special sense of itself and, usually, gotten its own way. Here are just a few of the personality traits and personalities that shaped Kansas City and the surrounding region:
WALT DISNEY: The founder of the House of Mouse (right) moved to Kansas City with his family in 1910 when he was nine years old. Urban legend states that about a decade later, he created the predecessor to today’s beloved Mickey after taming a mouse in his KC office. Disney fed that legend, stating that he trained the mouse to run inside a circle on his drawing board late at night. Prior to Disney’s success, he reportedly lived in his Kansas City office, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, and took weekly baths at Union Station. THE PENDERGAST BOSSES: James and Tom Pendergast were mob bosses, plain and simple. However, their leadership of the city between
1890 and 1940 resulted in the Kansas City boulevard and park system that led to the city’s nickname, “City of Fountains,” the evolution of the area into a central trans- portation hub for both rail and air, and massive construction. While the impetus for that construction was largely based in the use of Pendergast Readi-Mix Concrete, the brothers’ dedication to building up the area was ultimately a largely positive side effect. Sadly, violence often accompanies mob boss rule in any metro, and Kansas City was no exception. While the Pendergasts are often credited with everything from the city’s jazz scene to its specialty barbeque, they also brought with them gangster activity that resulted in regular violence during their tenure in city office. JOYCE CLYDE “J.C.” HALL: J.C. and Rollie Hall founded Hallmark Cards in 1910, founding the business on the sale of Valentine’s Day greetings. Hallmark Cards, Inc. is headquartered in Kansas City and employs more than 5,100 local residents.
The J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain (above) is one of the most famous in the “City of Fountains.” The figures originally resided on a Long Island estate in New York before the Nichols family brought them to Kansas City in 1951. Kansas City began municipal support for fountain installation in the late 19th century as part of its park-and-boulevard urban design. Originally, most of the fountains served the practical purpose of providing drinking water for people and animals. They were part of an early initiative to “make Kansas City a good place to live,” the slogan of the city’s first manifestation of a Chamber of Commerce.
Local employment options run the gamut from automotive manufacturing to tax-return processing (Kansas City hosts one of only two locations in the country where the IRS still processes paper returns) to engineering in a variety of capacities, including bomb assembly at the National Nuclear Security Adminis- tration site operated by Honeywell, where 85 percent of the non-nuclear compo- nents of the U.S. nuclear bomb arsenal are produced and assembled.
Thanks to job diversity and steady employer growth, Kansas City has an unemployment rate of just 4.1 percent, compared to a national average of 4.4 percent. Those jobs and the local economy have contributed to a steady growth in the local population as well. Between 2010 and 2017, the metro area added more than 90,000 residents, placing the total popula- tion at more than 2.1 million. Kansas City is also developing a reputation as fertile ground for startup
businesses. Chicago-based venture firm M25 Group recently ranked the city 12th of 54 midwestern cities, and Think Realty parent company Affinity Worldwide plays an active, incubatory role in the entrepre- neurial community both via funding and providing support and resources. M25’s managing director, Victor Gut- wein, said of the city, “Kansas City has put a lot of resources and community activities into promoting their [startup] environment.”
States. That 319 square miles is home to more than 146 fed- eral agencies, 31 national company head- quarters, and four hospital and healthcare systems.
HENRY PERRY (KANSAS CITY-STYLE BARBEQUE): Henry Perry was allegedly the first restaurateur in KCMO to serve up what was then considered “Memphis-style barbeque” in the early 1900s. The recipe evolved as the restaurant changed hands, with more molasses going into the mix along with other secret ingredients. Perry’s former establishment eventually became Gates Bar-B-Q, a family-owned business that remains in the Gates family and operational to this day.
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