Blog post 1 - Initial Impressions

I have just completed my second work day at Lee’s Summit, Missouri. My manager exchange is with Christal Weber – Assistant City Manager in charge of operations covering public works, fleet, city clerks, municipal court, airport and executive staff.

Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is in the mid-west with a population of 100,000 and borders Kansas City. Lee’s Summit Council has over 600 staff and unlike New Zealand includes Police and Fire.

My first meeting was sitting in on a Chamber of Commerce meeting focusing on government relations. The topic of the day was hearing from health providers in the community and their issues. The issues of rising health costs and a shortage of doctors and nurses were discussed, which are familiar issues for us here in New Zealand.

Attending the Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee provided an insight into the collaboration across agencies such as fire, health, police, emergency services and local government in being prepared for a broad range of threats and hazards, including terrorism.

Another meeting of note is the Civic Roundtable – a meeting of community leaders with a purpose of encouraging, promoting and initiating collaborative community improvements. Community leaders were encouraged to use their influence in supporting a proposed increase in fuel tax which funds highway patrols and roading improvements – the first in 22 years.

I have been struck by the commonality of issues whether they be housing affordability, containing cost increases with rising community expectations, or planning for growth.

It hasn’t been all work – attending the fall festival in Liberty, Kansas City, including a parade of local businesses, schools and church groups provided an authentic local experience. An unexpected event was a local rugby match between two rival Kansas City teams for a taste of home. Halloween preparations are underway with many houses starting to be adorned with decorations.

Blog post 2 - Identify and describe a current issue: Economic Development

Lee’s Summit delivers its economic development activity (excluding planning and infrastructure provision) through the Economic Development Council (EDC). This is an independent body with 66% private funding and the remaining 34% from Lee’s Summit Council (LSC) through a Bed and Industry tax. Sixty percent of its focus is on the talent pipeline with the remainder on attraction and retention of business.

The EDC is a funded member of the wider Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) with a sole focus on attracting new companies to the region. EDC receives on average three projects a week from KCADC for consideration to submit. It’s target industries include manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, regional corporates, data centres and animal health. With an inventory of all available properties in Lee’s Summit, the EDC works closely with the LSC and utilities to understand available and planned infrastructure. Because of close relationships the EDC has developed and its understanding of development projects, it is able to turn around a prospectus for a new company within three days.

To address the issue of the retention of talent, one particular initiative is the National Manufacturing Day where students are hosted in businesses for a day to learn about different types of jobs and opportunities available to them.

I also met with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street. Its downtown was ranked number one in the USA, with private investment following a major street upgrade – to such an extent that there are no shop or office vacancies in the downtown. Receiving only 14% of its funding from Lee’s Summit Council, a significant amount of its funding is from events – over 100 per year - with a major street festival being the main source.

A key to EDC’s success has been the relationships and the trust it has built with the private and public sector.

Blog post 3 – Highlight Good Practice

Kansas City, Missouri, a recipient of the ICMA Certificate of Excellence in Performance Management, uses data analytics to drive its performance. I was privileged to see this in action while visiting KCMO and attending the KCStat Committee meeting where progress on priorities are discussed. On this occasion, the subject of discussion was the planning, zoning and economic development priority. This committee reviewed its progress against the objectives and strategies through the presentation of statistics and progress on its activities. While largely a management-focused meeting and fairly informal, it was broadcast on-line so that the community and staff could tune in and hear how progress was going. The meeting was attended by the Mayor and was also open to council members to attend. I was impressed by the ownership demonstrated by senior management as well as the familiarity with statistical information. The informality of reporting via powerpoint presentation avoided the pitfalls that onerous reporting regimes can often succumb to. Building the capability of staff across the organisation in data analytics was achieved through a Data Academy, an in-house programme to train staff in the preparation, analysis, and application of data to drive performance operationally.

I was able to see on the ground, how the Council collected some of its data through its smart city initiatives. One such example, was the street car in its downtown. This enabled the laying of 2.2 miles of fibre and the installation of 300 new lamp posts and 328 wifi access points. The free street car is funded through advertising. The new lamp posts control traffic and pedestrian lights and lighting as well as collecting data on pedestrian and traffic counts. The joining of data sets, such as sensor data and card purchasing data has enabled KCMO to predict future growth and make more effective decisions.