Kansas City, Mo.'s deteriorating urban .core needed a jump start. City leaders needed to upgrade its crumbling infrastructure to draw people and businesses and revitalize blighted areas into commercial, cultural, entertainment, residential, and retail hubs.

Such initiatives stagnated, however, when inefficient, outdated, scattered municipal processes could not deliver projects quickly enough. Compartmentalized within various city departments, those processes lacked a common systematic approach, defined schedules, and accountability to resolve issues and push projects forward.

With the public works department able to deliver an average of only $40 million in projects annually, already funded projects were stalled from three to 10 years. Backlogged project budgets swelled with rising inflation costs. Contractors hesitated to bid on city projects or give the city “preferred client” status because of lengthy timeframes for bid-to-notice-to-proceed and contractor payment.

By 2004, the city faced a backlog valued at more than $240 million.


To fast-track its future, Kansas City needed to streamline project delivery and relieve its capital projects backlog.

In early 2004, mayor Kay Barnes, the city council, and city manager Wayne Cauthen addressed that need by launching the Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO). CIMO is an innovative, integrated public-private project management team comprising city staff, consultants from MWH Global Inc., a Colorado-based engineering consulting firm, and locally based consulting firm Burns & McDonnell. The city took the unprecedented step of placing these consultants in key CIMO leadership roles, including the director spot, giving them authority and responsibility to make decisions on the city's behalf.

“We recognized that developing a centralized capital improvements office required private-consultant support, and that placing consultants in key leadership positions was crucial to CIMO's rapid development and success,” says Cauthen. “Those steps allowed us to be more accountable to Kansas City's people and to be better stewards for the city's public infrastructure resources.”

CIMO's mission was to create a better-built community through lasting improvements to Kansas City's project-delivery system. Specific objectives were to:

  • Fast-track project delivery by applying industry best practices.
  • Reduce capital improvement project backlogs.
  • Spur area economic development.
  • Prepare city staff to assume CIMO leadership positions within three years, while providing for ongoing project delivery improvements.