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Featured in the November 2023 Ingram’s Magazine
Written by Lisa Kallmeyer, CPM

The pressures on the middle-class American lifestyle—a long-term trend that has been building over the past few decades—accelerated dramatically since 2020 and escalated further in 2022 as inflation skyrocketed. Steep increases in residential real-estate prices, coupled with a higher interest-rate environment and soaring apartment rents, have made it more challenging than ever for families to attain upward mobility.

As primary markets with high costs of living become even more unaffordable, and as recent growth markets like Denver, Nashville, and Austin experience growing pains of their own, new destination cities are beginning to emerge for those pursuing a higher quality of life.

Alternative cities such as Kansas City, Columbus and Indianapolis are emerging as attractive options for those seeking a better and more affordable lifestyle. These types of cities offer more affordable housing, better schools, thriving job markets, more accessible sports venues, less traffic, and easier access to higher education. While the smaller cities may not boast geographical draws like oceans or mountains, more people are prioritizing core quality-of life-factors over such geographical perks, which are often not available or accessible in some major cities.

Forbes magazine reports that Chicago’s cost of living is 22 percent higher than that of Kansas City. This means that a $90,000 salary in Chicago equates to a similar lifestyle achievable with a $70,000 salary in Kansas City. The contrast is even more striking when compared to Los Angeles, where one would need a $112,000 income to maintain a comparable lifestyle. 

With the explosive growth of remote work in the past several years, however, many of the jobs that previously tied workers to primary markets can now be done from just about anywhere; and, many employees are choosing to relocate to areas with a lower cost of living. 

The United States became a global economic powerhouse by offering a path to prosperity: a prosperous job market, a comfortable home, quality education for children, retirement security, and sufficient discretionary income. While economic diversity has always existed across the country, achieving the American Dream was historically more feasible from coast to coast than it is today. With the passage of time, the financial threshold to reach this dream has become more unattainable, particularly in certain regions.

Cities like Kansas City are positioned for growth, and there is increased potential for expanded job opportunities and new businesses as a result of some recent developments and special opportunities that present a promising future for our city—all of which are very exciting and unique. In February of this year, the Kansas City International Airport was significantly expanded, creating great first impressions for travelers visiting this region. The new terminal offers 50 retailers and restaurants, 80 percent of which are local vendors. Additionally, all 39 gates have glass passenger boarding bridges, the most at any airport in North America. The new terminal has created unique opportunities for Kansas City to become a destination city for many wonderful events and sports attractions, including the 2023 NFL Draft and the 2026 World Cup. During the bid and proposal processes, KCI was also a major selling point in securing Meta’s Golden Plains Tech Park and the Panasonic Energy electric-vehicle battery plant. 

Kansas City will also soon be the home of the first women’s professional team stadium where the KC Current will play their home games. The stadium is strategically designed to meet Kansas City’s need for mid-size outdoor venues that accommodate entertainment and sporting events. It also includes an adjacent public plaza and scenic dining options that will be operational year-round, further enhancing the area.

Hosting the World Cup in 2026 will have a tremendous impact on Kansas City, the smallest of 11 U.S. cities selected for host-city status. As a regional sports hub with an affordable cost of living, international attention from hosting the world’s largest soccer event could help make Kansas City the next population hot spot. For soccer fans from more than 15 states, Kansas City is the closest World Cup host city and potentially the most affordable option for lodging and dining.   

Kansas City is increasingly well-positioned for strong, momentous economic growth for many decades to come.

Read more from Ingram’s Magazine.