KC business leaders come together in fight against coronavirus

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fifty-thousand more test kits are now in Kansas City thanks to a group of a half-dozen CEO’s who are giving back to a city that has given so much to them.

Nathanel Hagedorn, CEO of NorthPoint Development, assembled a dream team of business leaders from Tradebot Systems, U.S. Engineering, Russell Stover and MTAR.

It’s a Kansas City COVID-19 task force to tackle testing.

Conversations between the CEO’s who are also friends quickly turned from the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses to the impact of the pandemic on the Kansas City community.

“To me this is a battle fought in minutes in hours right? And that’s when I realized we had this need. I basically made it my mission — we’re gonna figure it out,” Hagedorn said.

The lack of testing hit home for Hagedorn after three people at NorthPoint Development came down with symptoms of COVID-19 and couldn’t get tested.

Hagedorn contacted the head of BGI Genomics, which handled testing in China, and received an email at 2 a.m. Friday saying they had 50,000 test kits available in its California warehouse.

“I was elated,” Hagedorn said. “I tell you, I’m not a medical guy, I’m not in the hospital business, we do warehouse. It is the core of our business and real estate. And so starting from basically no expertise around testing, starting to say, ‘OK there’s hope here.'”

The test kits would cost just over $1 million, so Hagedorn began using his network of CEO’s and business leaders to get it done, starting with Dave Cummings of Tradebot Systems.

It took just 20 minutes for Cummings to commit $1 million to buy the kits.

“I’m a trader, so I tend to make fast decisions,” Cummings said. “I think everybody’s doing what they can to pull together as a community, and that’s what makes Kansas City a special place to live.”

Twenty-four hours after the group decided to act, the money had been wired, contracts had been signed and the trucks were on the way to Kansas City.

The first shipment of test kits arrived Sunday.

“And so I felt like one of my roles was going to be able to help make those connections so that we didn’t end up with a bunch a test kit sitting in a warehouse and nobody could use,” said Tyler Nottberg, chariman and CEO of U.S. Engineering.

Using his connections, Nottberg secured a commitment from the University of Kansas Hospital to set up its lab to handle testing.

“The test kits are sort of one component but being able to set up the laboratory in the right way and do things to validate things is an extremely important aspect of this as well,” Notberg said.

Governors of both Kansas and Missouri quickly gave their blessings to the project and what started at 2 a.m. Friday wrapped up by end of day.

The test kits will allow 2,000-3,000 additional people a day in the Kansas City metro to be tested for COVID-19. Experts say testing was a contributing factor in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea and China.

“I really hope we can inspire others because this is a major crisis for our community. It’s a major crisis for our country and we are an ingenious people that will solve problems and we all need to help,” Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn is flying in scientists from BGI Genomics Friday to train the staff at the KU Hospital lab and if all goes well, testing could start as soon as next week throughout the Kansas City metro area.

The KC COVID task force hopes business leaders in other parts of the country will follow their lead. The group has put together a playbook with the details of what they did and how they did it. It is available by emailing covidkstaskforce@gmail.com.

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