KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City has seen billions of dollars of investment in the last few years, with brand new buildings bringing in thousands of residents to some parts of town. Often, just a few blocks away, it can be hard to tell that anything has changed at all over the last few decades.

That’s part of what makes the metro a great place to be one of six communities across the country that has an Equity in Economic Development Program spending the summer here.

Alvin Gusman is a student at Texas A&M University, learning all about what lead up tto ambitious projects in downtown Kansas City but also why communities a few miles away don’t have a development boom to brag about and why that needs to change.

“It means actually paying attention to the communities that are going to be impacted,” said Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDCKC) Executive Director Of Business Development Steven Anthony.”

Anthony’s two decades away from Kansas City made the stark differences once he returned that much clearer.

Some parts of town had modern, luxurious apartments but, “when I went to the east side, it looked the same way as 20 years ago when I left,” Anthony said.

It’s part of the reason why he and Heather Brown at the EDCKC have been trying to bring more people with more diverse backgrounds into the fold.

“More equity in development, economic development, that’s something that we’ve been working on for a while,” said Brown.

It’s why it made sense to get involved in the Equity in Economic Development Fellowship Program, welcoming Gusman to Kansas City for the summer, allowing him to learn about the city and appreciate how some places have thrived while others have been left behind.

“It’s a really good opportunity to not just look at what a business is but hear what the business is doing in a specific area and how a person might be from the area, and they might not just be thinking about money,” said Gusman.

The development along Troost Avenue is a good example.

“We’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs come out of that area,” Anthony said. “There’s a lot of things that are very positive and I think that’s only coming about because we’re being intentional about the type of development we’re doing.”

The goal is for students like Gusman to see what’s happening around the metro, meet the people doing the work, and apply that to whatever work they do in the future.

“It’s made me have a greater focus on conscious development,” Gusman said. “The intersection between community and also companies to create healthy growth in those areas benefits everybody.”

At the end of the program, fellows return home with a new perspective for how another community has addressed challenges they all may face.

“Being from an area of Texas where there’s a lot of growth going really fast, I got to see a lot of important impacts and things that go on with a huge company coming to an area and how it completely changes an area,” Gusman said.

The hope is that generations of knowledge, often learned with great pain through trial and error, can jumpstart new solutions in younger citizens.

“What’s helpful is being able to take this to the next generation and say, ‘Look, we know the way it’s been done. That actually is what’s caused some of the issues we’ve had, but here’s an opportunity for you to go forward and be impactful for whatever community you end up serving,’ Anthony said.

As that development continues around Troost, FOX4 has reported on the effort to change the name of that road to Truth Avenue to reset the perception of the area and remove the negative connotation associated with the person it’s currently named after.

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