Creating an Image
By the late 1960s, Kansas City had been through a rough time. In the words of Charlie Kimball, a Kansas City businessman, Kansas City was “under utilized, under built, under recognized and under energized.”
However, at the turn of the decade things began to change for Kansas City. Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Ike Davis and other city, county and business leaders had a vision and, they were determined to see that vision through.
During Davis’s term, more than $5 billion in new construction began, 75 percent of which came from the private sector. The twin stadiums, Crown Center, Kansas City International airport and Hospital Hill began to change the face of Kansas City.
Residents knew the region had a lot to offer, but not everyone everywhere shared that perception. One New Yorker’s response to the question, ‘What do you think of when you think of Kansas City?’ was… ‘I don’t think of Kansas City at all.’
Area Leaders Launch PrimeTime
In 1971, area leaders decided to change that. About 20 of them met to discuss Kansas City’s non image. They discussed several ideas but the idea that carried the day came from Bill Johnson, Hallmark Cards’ public relations director. He suggested a major, on-going public relations campaign.
Over the next few months, leaders met at weekly breakfast meetings to hammer out the details. The Carl Byoir agency in New York would handle the campaign and a local steering committee would direct it. Its name would be PrimeTime.
The campaign kicked off at a press conference in New York City. Kansas City dominated the spotlight. The New York Times, National Geographic, the Saturday Evening Post and dozens of other publications featured the region.
Charlie Kimball began flying all over the country giving speeches on Kansas City. Area leaders hosted reporters and business executives in the region and successfully landed the 1976 Republican National Convention.
PrimeTime became a model for city promotion.
PrimeTime Evolves into KCADC
By 1976, the time had come to capitalize on KC’s image. It was time to directly compete with other cities for firms that were expanding or relocating. It was time to turn publicity into jobs and visitors into investments.
The Chamber of Commerce appointed a task force to study how to do this. The recommendation was to create an autonomous but affiliated economic development organization. Thus, the Kansas City Area Development Council was born and merged with PrimeTime.
Don Hall of Hallmark Cards and Henry Bloch founder of H&R Block were KCADC’s first co-chairs. They along with other business and civic leaders from the task force, created KCADC’s mission.
The committee hired Jim Monroe as its first executive. Monroe came from Omaha. He knew economic development and was instrumental in getting KCADC off on the right foot.
In 1991, KCADC hired Bob Marcusse its current president and CEO. The council went from representing seven counties to 18 counties.
In 1994, KCADC launched the SmartCities campaign marketing the region as a telecom and high-tech hub. It set the standard across the nation for how to brand a city.
In 2004, KCADC launched its current OneKC and ThinkKC campaigns. The campaigns took city branding to a whole new level as more than 250 companies and communities used the brand in their own marketing efforts.
To date, KCADC has attracted more than 500 new companies to the region.