How leaders need to strengthen the region ahead of 2026

Kansas City is growing and evolving, Neal Sharma said, making it more important than ever to get involved at the community level to address challenges and secure opportunities for the region.

Neal Sharma, KC Rising, Horizon Event 2023

“Especially as Kansas City gears up for the 2026 World Cup,” reiterated other leaders speaking at KC Rising’s Horizon 2023 event on Thursday.

“We have to make sure of that [through] “This platform – the place where connections and collaborations happen – will make KC Rising stronger and better to enable the realization of our vision now and for generations to come,” said Sharma, who serves as co-chair of KC Rising. “That brings us to today, a day to celebrate our progress together as a community. But more importantly, keep your eyes on the horizon.”

Click here to watch KC Rising.

Civic leaders, business leaders and community members gathered at Children’s Mercy Park Thursday to network, celebrate and share insights on issues they think Kansas City should recognize and address.

Lia McIntosh, KC Rising leader, 2023 Horizon event

Lia McIntosh, Director of KC Rising, used the event to share data highlighting the region’s growth in life sciences and entrepreneurship.

“With support from organizations like BioNexus KC and BioKansas, Kansas City has 35,000 employees supporting research and development across the region with a focus on humans and animals,” said McIntosh. “The region has seen growth of 87 companies since 2006. That is an increase of 44 percent. progress is possible.

“When we think of entrepreneurship in the KC region – supported by organizations like KCSourceLink [and] KC Global Design – we continue to be a thriving environment for new businesses in all types of industries including architecture, engineering and design,” she continued. “In fact, first-time employers with small businesses have created over 19,000 new jobs in 2021 alone. Progress is possible.”

Carolyn Watley, KC Rising, Horizon Event 2023

To accommodate the number of workers flocking to Kansas City, the region must work to provide more housing opportunities, said Carolyn Watley, co-chair of KC Rising. Watley announced KC Rising’s plans to form an action team focused on housing.

“We’ve always been proud of the countless opportunities we have to live in the KC region; But as we look to the future, we share a concern with our benchmark cities that our housing offering is not meeting the needs of the workforce we are trying to attract and retain,” said Watley. “…We applaud those working to create more housing opportunities, and we believe this is an important issue for KC Rising to explore and investigate over the coming year. Inclusive prosperity hinges on housing choices.”

Horizon 2023 also looked three years into the World Series, which is roughly six to seven times larger than the NFL Draft that Kansas City hosted in April. The 2026 World Cup will host 48 teams in 16 cities between June and July.

Cliff Illig, retired Executive Vice President and co-founder of Cerner, KC Rising’s 2023 Horizon event

“We understand that the 2023 World Cup is a generational — likely generational — opportunity to make Kansas City a place on the global stage,” said Cliff Illig, retired executive vice president and co-founder of Cerner as a co-owner of Sporting Kansas City. “By doing so, we made a kind of concerted effort to win the contract. It took a great team from the Sports Commission, Sporting and the Chiefs [and] by our local and state governments and many others to present FIFA with a proposal that is very difficult to ignore.”

With the World Cup expected to have a one-time economic impact of more than $600 million for Kansas City, Illig challenged attendees and city planners to focus on how the city can position itself to deliver long-term returns.

“We all need to strengthen our shoulder [to the wheel for] “This is our region’s best chance for our World Cup to change us and show the rest of the world who we are,” said Illig. “We will reach out to each of you and ask for your help.”

Check out a photo gallery from the Horizon 2023 event below.


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