Kansas City’s salesman

Robert Marcusse ’71


Fall 2012

When baseball’s All-Star Game comes to your city, it is time to roll out the red carpet and send out the fancy invitations. After all, it has been 39 years since the game’s biggest collection of stars has come to your town all over the same few days.

So goes three days in early July for Robert Marcusse ’71, the president and chief executive officer of the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC).

“The Home Run Derby will be a lot of fun,” Marcusse said a few hours before the contest itself, “but we are working—working to influence people or people representing clients who are job creators for Kansas City.”

His career path began as a Calvin biology major, science and math teacher, and school principal. An interest in further graduate work—thinking about being a school superintendent—led to a required non-education internship for the economic development corporation of Battle Creek, Mich.

“I fell in love with what I was doing and the corporation offered me the number two position in the organization,” said Marcusse. “I’ve never looked back. This work was the right fit for me.”

His biology degree has proven to be helpful because biotech research and related companies have been key targets of KCADC.

“It certainly helps to be conversant in the language of whatever company or organization with whom you work,” he said, “but one has to be aware that the language is ever-changing.”

In fact, Marcusse touts the Calvin liberal arts background as a perfect first step to his career because while the topic may be biotechnology today, it will likely be something different tomorrow.

After Battle Creek, Marcusse worked in the economic development offices of Peoria, Ill., and Columbus, Ohio, before settling in Kansas City 21 years ago.

“We feel very much at home here,” he said. “We found a wonderful Christian school community. You couldn’t pry us out.”

Marcusse touts the city’s Midwestern hospitality with its major investments in arts, culture and athletics, and with 16 universities within KCADC’s boundaries, intellectual opportunities abound.

“We like to say that there’s a grace and elegance attached to the city that makes it an excellent place to attract and retain talent, and that’s a central attribute companies desire,” he said.

But the competition is fierce and increasingly international, he noted. A recent and significant victory for Kansas City was Google’s decision to make the area its launch and beta test site for an ultra-high-speed fiber network—the only U.S. city so chosen. Residents will enjoy Internet speeds up to 100 times what most Americans experience.

“God led me to an exciting career and a great city,” Marcusse said. “The work is always a challenge, with 18 counties involved and lots of moving pieces that need to stay in alignment; a challenge, but also a joy. A strong and prosperous development council means a strong and prosperous Kansas City.”