Lee’s Summit’s Competitive Position

February 28, 2014 

Jobs are not the linchpin to economic vitality; investment capital to satisfy demand is the linchpin to economic vitality. However, for the media, elected officials, and most of us, “job” is easier to understand than “capital investment.” Why? Because a job’s “output” (our wage) is far more personal. With a job, we can buy cars, groceries and homes. But guess what? Our purchases are translating our demand for goods and services to justify – admittedly at arm’s length – a retailer to make a capital investment to capture our jobs demand.

Today, as compared to the past, human “capital” (some say knowledge workers) dominates physical capital equipment for value-added output. The table below approximates the value added per employee. Guess what makes the difference? Human capital and education.

Industrial Sector Output/employee
Computer & Electronics$477,274
Computer Programming$83,349
Info Systems$218,105
Non Residential Construction$92,513
Real Estate$126,425
Food and Bev Stores$55,443
Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers$86,122

If human capital/knowledge workers are the linchpin to output-per-employee, it stands to reason that companies’ investment locations will follow the human capital capable of massive output per person. Need proof? What do the following names bring to mind? Silicon Valley, Austin, Research Triangle, and, yes, Kansas City. All are examples of critical and growing mass of skill sets where 1 plus 1 sometimes equals 3.

Site selectors use several socio-economic indicators to mine for “knowledge worker” hotbeds. Some are listed below, and Lee’s Summit stands out in eastern Jackson County and the MSA as a leader in these indicators of where those workers reside:

BA Degree27%17.8%21.0%
Grad or Professional Degree15.7%9.7%11.1%
Information Technology 4.6%3.7%3.3%
Finance and Insurance11.4%9.1%8.5%
Computer & Math 4.7%3.4%3.3%
Healthcare Practitioners/Techs7.1%5.1%5.5%
Architecture/Engineering2.5% 1.8%1.8%

Luckily for our community, Lee’s Summit is blessed with knowledge workers. The next step is to aggressively market that strength to attract investment, because here is the thing about highly-educated people: they will move to communities with a high quality of life, excellent schools and recreational and cultural experiences that allow them to balance work and family. Unlike years ago when machines mass-produced goods, today, ideas add highly-profitable value. The best example of this: apps for smart phones. There are app software designers who live right here in Lee’s Summit, selling these products worldwide from their homes. LSEDC’s goal is to insure Lee’s Summit is a place where they can testify that “Yours Truly, Lee’s Summit” comes to life as a place in which to work, play, pray and learn.

Jim Devine is President of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council. He can be reached at jdevine@leessummit.org

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