Kansas City

Center for Economic Information

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Doug Bowles, Associate Director

The Center for Economic Information (CEI) was established in 1994 as a research unit in the Department of Economics of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Its stated mission at that time was to use advancing information technology in support of both academic research and economic decision-makers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Our initial commission was as a core unit of the Missouri State Census Data Center (MSCDC), funded by the State of Missouri in collaboration with the State Data Center Program of the Census Bureau. For a short, anecdotal version of CEI's origins, read A Brief History of CEI, as recounted by Dr. Eugene Wagner.

In 1997, UMKC was awarded a HUD COPC (Community Outreach Partnership Center) Grant, which included a role for CEI in neighborhood asset-mapping. This evolved into a pilot project for what eventually was to become the 2000 Neighborhood Housing Conditions Survey (NHCS), a fifteen-point property conditions evaluation which was applied to 85,000 parcels, constituting 100% of residential property and vacant lots in 120 urban neighborhoods of KCMo. Around this time, the survey was also commissioned for the urban core areas of Kansas City, Kansas, and Independence and Sugar Creek in Missouri. While it has not yet been fully replicated in KCMo, the survey continues to be applied under annual contracts with the city in selected neighborhoods, for support of strategic planning and program evaluation.

Internet publication of the parcel-level 2000 NHCS data (as a first-generation IMS prototype) provided the foundation for CityScope, which has evolved into CEI's public access neighborhood indicators data platform. Other data currently available includes tract, block group, and block level data from the 1990 and 2000 Decennial Census, monthly reported crime statistics from KCMo and KCKs Police Departments at block and neighborhood summary levels, and annual residential lending data collected in compliance with the Community Reinvestment and Home Mortgage Disclosure Acts (CRA and HMDA). The site currently records over 2000 registered users, and is scheduled for a major content and functionality upgrade in Summer 2010, including indicators derived from an extensive inventory of municipal administrative data.

In 2005, CEI began to pursue more direct engagement with urban neighborhoods. This engagement eventually led, in 2008, to formalization of a policy that had always been implicit in our operations philosophy: the Neighborhood Development Services Program (NDSP). Financed through leverage of ongoing grant and contract revenues, and drawing on the resources of our established indicator data program, the NDSP represents CEI's formal commitment to provide data-driven strategic planning support services to Kansas City urban neighborhoods, on demand and pro bono, to the limits of our capacity. Further leverage of staff capacity has been achieved through training and supervision of graduate and undergraduate student assistants in response to NDSP requests.

In Spring 2009, our commitment to working with urban neighborhoods led to a contract with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), funded through the City of KCMo, to provide data collection, analysis, and program evaluation services for the Green Impact Zone of Missouri (GIZMO), a project initiated by the office of 5th Missouri District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, to concentrate ARRA stimulus funding in an urban community with demonstrable impact. One of the contract deliverables for this project, the Green Impact Zone Data and Map Server (http://kc-csrv-ceiweb.kc.umkc.edu/greenimpactzone), represents a prototype installation of the scheduled CityScope upgrade.

The Community-Wide Information Network (CWIN) originated in 1997, when the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Kansas City's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), convened representatives from regional organizations whose missions included or entailed collection of significant socio-economic and other data resources. Its goal was to create a collaborative, shared regional data resource, a "clearinghouse of neighborhood information". CEI was a member of this original group. Over time, active CWIN organizational membership would wax and wane (sustained, however, by continuous engagement of a relatively small core group), meetings would fluctuate between monthly and bi-monthly frequency, and the group’s orientation toward achievement of the ultimate goal would oscillate between more desultory organizational information-sharing at monthly meetings and active pursuit of a concrete organizational structure and functional regional data system. During this same period of time, CEI continued development of its own neighborhood indicator data program, and the CityScope web site.

In 2008, David Park, Acting Director of the KCMo Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, invited representatives of community organizations and agencies to a meeting whose purpose was to promote the idea of Kansas City’s participation in the NNIP. Representatives of both CEI and MARC attended this meeting, and suggested that an NNIP application could best be pursued through the CWIN organizational framework. Subsequent CWIN meetings led to the conclusion that this should take the form of an immediate application by CEI for NNIP partnership status, with formalization of the CWIN collaborative in support of that application and with its formal commitment to support of a long-range regional KC indicator program congruent with NNIP partner requirements and expectations. This suggestion was adopted; a formal MOU was drafted and signed by a number of organizations, and was included with CEI's NNIP application. In addition to CEI and MARC, the organizations committing to the formal CWIN MOU include:

  1. The City of Kansas City, Missouri
  2. The Kansas City Public Library
  3. The Mid-America Assistance Coalition (MAAC)
  4. United Community Services of Johnson County
  5. The Local Investment Commission (LINC)
  6. The Downtown Council of KCMo


These organizations include almost all of the sustained core membership in CWIN over the course of its 12 year history. Formal organizational membership and associated regional data resources are expected to grow significantly over time.

Jordan Ayala
Research Associate
Jacob Wagner
Faculty Director, Center for Neighborhoods
Neal Wilson
Graduate Research Consultant
Doug Bowles
Associate Director

The Mid-America Regional Council

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Frank Lenk, Director of Research Services


Who we are:

Some issues reach across the boundaries of individual communities. Often they can only be addressed by working together.

The Mid-America Regional Council promotes regional cooperation and develops innovative solutions. We help create a community people are proud to call home.

MARC is a nonprofit association of city and county governments and the metropolitan planning organization for the bistate Kansas City region. Governed by a board of local elected officials, we serve nine counties and 120 cities.

We provide a forum for the region to work together to advance social, economic and environmental progress.

MARC is funded by federal, state and private grants, local contributions and earned income. A major portion of our budget is passed through to local governments and other agencies for programs
and services.

What we do:  our roles in the Greater Kansas City community


  • Identify regional challenges and act as a problem-solving forum
  • Promote consensus and commitment to regional solutions
  • Educate and engage the public in decision-making processes



  • Coordinate policies that guide progress in the region
  • Develop regional plans for transportation, the environment, emergency response and more
  • Conduct research and provide technical support to local leaders



  • Advocate for regional issues at the state and federal levels
  • Provide cooperative services between local governments
  • Allocate resources for regional systems


Program Highlights

Enhanced Response

  • Manage the regional 9-1-1 system, providing technical, administrative and workforce development services
  • Coordinate the development of interoperable communications systems among local jurisdictions
  • Help the region prepare for and reduce risks from disasters, both natural and man-made
  • Coordinate regional homeland security planning and administer grants that provide equipment, training and exercise support to emergency personnel
  • Assist public health agencies with public education and preparedness efforts
  • Support emergency medical service agencies and hospitals with coordinated communications and regional plans and protocols


Caring Communities

  • Ensure that the region's children have access to high-quality early learning programs that prepare them to succeed in school
  • Serve as the Head Start grantee for Clay, Jackson and Platte counties
  • Use grant funds to supplement salaries and provide professional development opportunities for early learning program staff
  • Serve as the Area Agency on Aging for the five Missouri counties, overseeing home-delivered
    meals, congregate meals at senior centers, nursing home ombudsmen and special-needs transportation services
  • Provide support to caregivers for the elderly through an information and assistance line and a comprehensive database of available services
  • Help improve access to health care for the uninsured and underinsured


Efficient Transportation

  • Develop and update plans for short- and long-term regional transportation investments
  • Guide state and federal transportation dollars toward projects that meet long-term goals, developed through public input and evaluation processes
  • Administer Operation Green Light, a system to ease congestion by coordinating traffic signal timing on major roads across city boundaries
  • Lead efforts to implement the Smart Moves regional transit plan
  • Promote transportation alternatives, including bicycle and pedestrian travel, and carpooling and vanpooling through RideShare
  • Support Kansas City SmartPort's development of an international trade-processing center
  • Evaluate the impact of development and land-use patterns on the region's transportation system
  • Promote safe travel through the "Destination: Safe" Coalition's safety planning initiatives


Healthy Environment

  • Encourage action to protect the natural environment through education and outreach
  • Provide SkyCast, a daily forecast of air quality for the region, and develop plans for meeting national air quality standards
  • Work with local governments and other agencies to develop best practices for stormwater management and protection of water quality
  • Foster thoughtful land-use planning and resource protection using the region's Natural Resource Inventory
  • Award grants for waste reduction, reuse and recycling programs through the MARC Solid Waste Management District
  • Coordinate efforts to implement the MetroGreen plan for more than 1,100 miles of trails and greenways
  • Develop "green" technical and leadership skills in the region through the Academy for Sustainable Communities


Effective Government

  • Bring city and county administrators together through the Managers' Roundtable to find shared solutions to common problems
  • Support cooperative purchasing that allows governments to save money by combining buying power
  • Provide high-quality, cost-effective training to government employees, elected officials and nonprofit agencies through the Government Training Institute
  • Address unique challenges facing older communities that surround the urban core through the First Suburbs Coalition
  • Provide administrative, planning and informational assistance to small cities
  • Collect, analyze and share regional maps and data for planning and forecasting
  • Provide a forum for citizen engagement in regional affairs through One KC Voice
Jay Heermann
Data Services-GIS Manager
Sara Hintze
GIS Data Developer/Analyst
Frank Lenk
Director of Research Services


April 2020
University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) Center for Neighborhoods, a collaborator with the NNIP partner Center for Economic Information, has launched a new initiative called Social Connecting/... [read more]
In the fall of 2013, in collaboration with Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH) of Kansas City, CEI was awarded grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for research... [read more]
One of our collaborators at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Center for Economic Information is Jacob Wagner at the UMKC Center for Neighborhoods. He's been collaborating with the ... [read more]


March 9, 2020
Report - By: Camille H. Anoll

Urban Institute, Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development, Institute for Urban Policy Research, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Center for Economic Information, DataHaven, Urban Health Collaborative, University Center for Social and Urban Research

Read the Brief
July 25, 2019
Presentation - By: Jordan Ayala

Center for Economic Information

November 30, 2016
Report - By: Frank Lenk

The Mid-America Regional Council

September 30, 2016
Report - By: Mid-America Regional Council

The Mid-America Regional Council

September 22, 2015
Blog post - By: G. Thomas Kingsley

The Mid-America Regional Council, Urban Institute