Kansas City, like many major cities, has found maintaining or reviving the downtown action can be challenging. In spite of many investments in the Kansas City urban core, convincing people and organizations to go there has often been met with the opposite effect. Reporting for The Kansas City Star, Kevin Collison summarizes some statistics about where private employers are choosing to locate—or not locate (“Jobs not Part of KC Core’s Revival,” June 16, 2013, pp. A1, A7):
“U.S. Census data shows that from 2001 to 2011, . . . greater downtown lost 19.6 percent of its private employees. That’s 16,237 fewer private jobs.”
That is a big number. I see two interlinked reasons why this sort of trend occurs in any metropolis.
The first reason is employees’ perceived quality of life. Although not automatically true, many people perceive urban areas to be more crime ridden. Therefore, as people make decisions about seeking employment, a tendency to search within suburban areas often prevails.
Second, because of the above, and because employers want to remain as competitive as possible in attracting talent, employers tend to locate sites within suburban areas.
I certainly recognize these dynamics do not necessarily apply to every situation. Some cities have simply developed such a dazzling downtown environment, people and employers are attracted to it like iron to a magnet. Nevertheless, I do contend those cases are the exception rather than the rule. Let’s face it—employers eventually have to ask themselves the question, how will we best be able to attract and retain the best talent? Unfortunately, the answer sometimes drives the geography.