We recently began a series of interviews with Kurt Knutson, founder, chairman and CEO of Freedom Bank of Overland Park, Kansas, the largest suburb in the Kansas City metro area.
Today’s topic is a discussion about “Why Kansas City.” Why are business leaders and leading businesses in Kansas City so driven? What is it about the Kansas City region that makes it a great place to live, work, raise a family and grow a business?
Kurt has a bird’s eye view of Kansas City, and views the city from a variety of perspectives:
- A leader, CEO, business owner and business founder
- A member of the Kansas City and Johnson County communities
- A vision of Kansas City and also significant experience and ties to other markets
- A community and commercial (business owners’) banker/lender
- A mentor and advisor to business owners and young banking professionals
- A volunteer and leader of statewide organizations
- The founder and CEO of a local charity
In addition to viewing Kansas City as a CEO and business banker, Kurt sees through the lens of a husband, father and member of the community.
Kurt chose Kansas City as a career destination out of college. He considered Kansas City, Minneapolis and Chicago as solid locations for him to start his career. Here are some of his considerations, beginning in 1982 and now through the eyes of a seasoned Kansas City business leader.
A Business Builder City
Why is the Kansas City metro a great place for small businesses? Small businesses are the ultimate driver of the majority of job growth in the U.S. economy. Kansas City is no exception. The Kansas City metro is an excellent small business city. And, we cannot evaluate the area’s business community without also discussing why the Kansas City region is a great place to live, work and raise a family.
“Kansas City is a very diverse community. It’s not heavily reliant on one industry which was important to me. We have a few large companies, but it’s not a Fortune 500 type of town. It’s a privately held business town. That diversification to me is really important. It provides stability. The ups and downs aren’t as steep. That to me is something I was looking for at the time.”
A Culture and Business Climate to Foster Thousands of Small Companies Around a Few Larger Companies
There is a healthy, growing interaction effect between the thousands of smaller companies and a number of larger companies. Both the large and small companies are well diversified across a variety of industries. Thus, the city is not only free from dependence on one giant employer, but also is less affected by national economic cycles. Kansas City’s diverse, non-coastal, small business economy typically serves as an economic buffer to some of the impacts and shocks of national economic volatility.
“You’ve got a heavy amount of industry that calls upon our local businesses to support them. We also know it isn’t the concentration (within one industry) that we need. We (KC, as a community) need to be diversified, and not be subject to the whims of any one particular company.”
A Great Place to Live and Raise a Family
Kansas City is undoubtedly a wonderful place to raise a family. That alone makes for a great economic development engine. Overland Park, the largest Kansas suburb, consistently ranks among the top in the nation for raising a family. https://bit.ly/2WUTYmT Quality of life, broadly defined, is one of the most attractive and important growth factors for the region. The public-school systems on the Kansas side of the metro are a significant economic driver. The three major districts are Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Olathe.
“We moved here Johnson County (Kan.,) because we had kids and we were looking for those great school districts to have our kids go through. I see the growth of the county dependent on the excellence of the school districts we have here. That has happened. It continues to happen. Johnson County is the economic driver of the state, and the school district is really the economic driver for Johnson County. That’s what keeps the growth going and keeps the community so vibrant.”
A melting pot of people for everywhere, keeping the city engaged, open-minded and vibrant.
In addition to a firm foundation of Kansas City area natives, Kansas City, Mo. and especially Johnson County are home to people who moved here from around the country and around the world. The diverse population, combined with a family friendly culture and a lower stress city, keeps the business population vibrant, engaged and open to new ideas.
Because of its livability and centralized location, the KC metro is home to regional offices of many of the country’s most notable employers. Even when local employees are offered subsequent transfers to other communities, many have fallen in love with the Kansas City area and choose to stay.
“The people that you come across in town are from all over. Everybody is very accepting and welcoming. That creates a positive environment. Wherever you’re coming from, it’s an environment that’s conducive to somebody coming in from the outside, and being able to grow a business here.”
Freedom Bank – Banking on Kansas City Businesses
We will continue to follow progress at Freedom Bank as our business tour of the Kansas City area continues. Kurt and his team at Freedom Bank represent all that is right with the Kansas City area and Kansas City business, and we’re excited to continue our journey of following the progress of stand-out business owners in the Kansas City area and beyond.
For more information about Freedom Bank services, contact Kurt Knutson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may call the bank at 913 563-5600, or visit them on the web at www.IBankWithFreedom.com.