From Your Chamber President

What's in that list?
by Tracey Osborne, CCE
Overland Park Chamber President

Overland Park has received some great recognition lately. What’s nice is that we don’t apply for these; usually we find out about them via a Google Alert, tweet or e-mail notification. The most recent accolades were a #1 ranking in the “Top 10 Most Intelligent Mid-Sized Cities” by, and #2 ranking for “Highest Educated Workforce” by You may picture City and Chamber staff using these awards for bragging rights at our respective industry conferences, but aside from our obvious community pride, the true value in these notifications is several fold.

First, these lists are a great reminder to us locally of the value of our community’s assets. Many of these lists judge similar criteria: quality of K-12 and higher education and citizens’ pursuit of degrees, public safety, access to quality health care, arts, culture and recreational opportunities, the number of libraries, diversity of business, and transportation access. These are all factors that determine the “quality” of our lifestyle and ultimately play a role in how executives and site selectors determine business location and expansions, and most importantly, how their employees and future workforce will choose a place to live and work.

Secondly, the fact that Overland Park, Johnson County and the Kansas City metro receive recognition in national lists helps keep us in the minds of our external audiences, often without us spending valuable marketing dollars. Rankings by independent sources that most often didn’t ask for our input can be viewed as more objective. These most recent rankings noting the quality of our workforce and emphasis on learning reemphasize education as the key to our historic economic development success.

Nationally our region received attention when The New York Times recently ranked Johnson County 11th on the “Easiest Places to Live” list out of 3,135 counties in the U.S. This ranking used six criteria: education, unemployment rate, median household income, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate. In local reporting of the ranking, KCUR noted that 50 percent of Johnson County residents have at least a bachelor’s degree and make $75,139 annually.

These lists in and of themselves do not create value. They can create short term buzz, and when you’re at or near the top as we have been fortunate to be on more than several occasions, that is a good thing. But beware of making too much of these lists as they can be capricious things. Criteria can change, and new lists and listmakers spring up and communities may not fare as well. So, we will not boast of being “most intelligent,” but should capitalize and hold tight to the criteria that the lists celebrate. Just as competitors strive not for the trophy, Overland Park’s eye is on the ultimate prize: providing the best quality of life and business environment for you. And if in striving for and attaining that goal creates some recognition, join me in sharing the good news.  /  @traceylosborne

Past columns by Chamber President Tracey Osborne, CCE:
July 2014 - A broken record
June 2014 - How's our Talio?
May 2014 - The Three Rs for Johnson County
April 2014 - A winning combination
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