When technology companies look for a place to expand they are seeking a strong telecommunications infrastructure, an area with strong economic growth, an educated work force and an attractive business climate. The Kansas City Area Development Council has developed an area economic development strategy to fulfill these requirements and attract businesses.
The council, an economic development organization supported by 150 corporate and 25 government partners, has turned to technology to deliver the message that Kansas City is the place for business. A site visit to the Kansas City area might include the usual meetings with business and government leaders. But instead of driving to locations throughout the metropolitan area, visits are conducted via two-way interactive video conferences.
Thanks to Southwestern Bell's installation of ISDN throughout the area, and the "wiring" of government and business leaders' desktops, corporate representatives can meet with leaders all over the area on very short notice -- without the jet lag.
The council's efforts are spearheaded by Wayne Little, a former AT&T vice president, whose vision included the telecommunications infrastructure that makes Kansas City so attractive to technology industry companies. Kansas City's work toward becoming one of America's smart cities was assisted by a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department and some aggressive marketing. The council has also been using a site on the World Wide Web
Additionally, the council uses the site to tie together its government and corporate partners by pointing to their Web sites. Each company and community can showcase their strengths without appearing competitive. The result is a seamless presentation that exudes cooperation and beckons companies to consider the area.
According to Martin Mini, marketing director for the council, they track nearly one-third of the 1,000 hits on their Web site each day to corporate visitors. That translates to leads for the organization. In addition to the online request for information provided on the home page, the council has begun tracing leads from the Web site to provide additional information.
"Truthfully, we weren't prepared for the amount of attention we would have to give the Web site," Mini said. "We had visitors for a long time that we simply couldn't get to for follow-up." The council has operated the Web site for slightly over a year and is pleased with the results. According to Mini, "We see
an increasing role for the Web in our office that will require some full-time attention. Besides the current information, we intend to use the Web site to provide developers with all of the area zoning ordinances and building regulations." The Web site is clearly only one aspect of the strategy Kansas City uses to attract business, but it represents the power of the medium and a growing trend among public and private sector organizations using the World Wide Web to publish and distribute information and deliver services.
FEDS JUST AHEAD
The fact is the Internet has been transforming government service delivery for some time. Federal government agencies have long used the Internet to distribute massive amounts of information. About a year ago, the trend turned toward the creation of Web sites to achieve the distribution goal and expand upon it. Agencies are using Web servers to deliver services in addition to static information. The Social Security Administration