In The News: Feb 2015




Missouri

Buchanan County

Training Solutions Studied
In a county with one of the state’s lowest unemployment rates—4.2 percent in December—business leaders in St. Joseph are exploring ways to provide additional work-force training, pointing to a shortage of qualified candidates in the local work force. Although it has Missouri Western State University there, St. Joseph is one of the state’s largest cities without immediate access to a community college, and executives are studying solutions to provide post-secondary training without compelling students to drive nearly 50 miles to Kansas City.

Clay County

Ford Adding 900 at Claycomo
The popularity of Ford’s F-150 pickup truck, combined with the productivity advantages from a $1.1 billion upgrade at the Claycomo site, means more work—and more employees—in the area. Ford announced plans to bring on 900 new workers before the end of the first quarter. Officials said that would raise the company’s area work force total to more than 7,000, making it one of the area’s largest private employers.

Jackson County

KCP&L Plan for Car-Chargers
Kansas City Power & Light Co. will spend $20 million to install roughly 1,000 charging stations for vehicle owners throughout the area, along with select locations in St. Joseph, Sedalia, Warrensburg and Clinton. Collaborative efforts with other businesses will cover some of the cost, but the utility says residential customers can expect to pay an additional $2 a year to support the Clean Charge Network, elements of which will be in place this summer.

Bloch Rankings Invalidated
Even though an independent review determined that the Bloch School of Management could justify its national rankings for entrepreneurial programs, the Princeton Review withdrew its recognition that had slated the school at No. 24 in graduate programs and 25th in undergraduate courses in 2014. The publication’s action came after disclosure that inflated figures had been used in three of the 40 metrics used to determine program ranks. In response, Chancellor Leo Morton announced that UMKC had asked the Review to withdraw similar honors accorded from 2011 through 2013.

Littler Joins Back-Office Movement
San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson, one of the world’s largest employment and labor law practices, says it will move its services center and corporate departments to KC. It’s the second major national firm in the past year—and second from San Francisco—to designate Kansas City as a home for back-office operations. The Littler move will create 275 jobs initially, the firm said, with added growth thereafter. The new offices will be in Crown Center.

 

Kansas

Douglas County

Property Market Tightens
Colliers International has issued a report showing that the retail sector in Lawrence, with a 3.9 percent vacancy rate at the start of 2015, is considerably tighter than the Kansas City market, which sat at 8.5 percent. The rate in Lawrence was down 0.5 percent from the start of 2014, and an improvement of more than 27 percent from the 2013 rate. Downtown Lawrence was particularly tight at 2.7 percent, and that part of the city had only 35,000 square feet of vacant retail space. The report noted a 9.6 percent office vacancy rate and a 6.1 percent industrial property rate.

Johnson County

Plans for 95th & Metcalf
Two firms jointly redeveloping the intersection of 95th and Metcalf in Overland Park—one of the region’s most heavily trafficked—say they plan to turn the combined 63 acres into a multiuse projected dubbed Central Square. It would entail razing the Metcalf South mall, which was the region’s first, as well as the strip center north of 95th Street. In their places would rise 500,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and entertainment venues, along with 56,000 square feet of office space and 450 luxury apartments. No cost estimates, time-table or major tenants have been announced.

The JO Boards KCATA

Effective this month, Johnson County Transit is being managed by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority—a move expected to generate efficiencies to manage costs, but one unlikely to impact riders. Dub-
bed The JO, the Johnson County operation will retain its routes and drivers, along with fare structures and bus stops.

Shawnee County

Topeka Receives National Ranking
Livability.com has identified Topeka as one of its 10 Best Affordable Places to Live for 2015. The city’s No. 9 ranking was based on costs of living across such categories as health care, food, housing, and transportation, drawing on figures from the private research firm C2ER and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Medicaid Opportunity Cost
The Kansas Hospital Association says that Stormont-Vail Healthcare and St. Francis Regional Medical Center stand to lose millions in reduced payments under the ACA, but recover a portion of those losses if the state were to expand its Medicaid rolls through its KanCare program. Hospital officials say a temporary increase in Medicaid reimbursements expired at the end of 2014, meaning lower receipts starting this year. Authorities said Medicaid expansion could provide health insurance for 100,000 low-income adults by ‘16.

Wyandotte County

Royal Inquiries
Officials in Wyandotte County say they have been contacted by the American Royal as it explores options for relocation in the wake of a years-long delay on a proposal to modify its West Bottoms property—which included a request to tear down and replace Kemper Arena. The possibility has been raised of relocation after the city again decided not to act on that proposal.

 

Correspondent

Washington

Self-Employed Cite Insurance Costs
Two-thirds of respondents to a survey by the National Association for the Self-Employed say the No. 1 change they would like to make in their current health plans would be to lower monthly premiums. The survey of small business owners and entrepreneurs nationwide showed that 53 percent of those who responded believed that in 2015, they had little chance of finding health care coverage that would be both affordable and comprehensive.  The organization said more than 23 percent of the organizations polled planned to spend more than $10,000 on health-care expenses this year, and that more than 80 percent said that they did not qualify for tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Jefferson City

Nixon to Seek Trade Ties With Cuba
Gov. Jay Nixon has announced plans to accompany members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba on a trip to Havana next month, seeking ways to expanded trade with Cuba for Missouri producers. The USAAC is a new group of more than 40 prominent U.S. food and agriculture companies and associations calling on Congress to lift the long-standing U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Nixon and other members of the delegation will meet with Cuban officials overseeing trade, agriculture and economic development there. The delegation will include representatives from the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Rice Council, the Missouri Forest Products Association, Dairy Farmers of America, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the U.S. Rice Federation.

Topeka

Missouri River Transfer Plan Updated
There are no indications the Legislature will take any action on it, but the Kansas Water Authority is submitting to lawmakers a revised proposal for using water from the Missouri River to address long-term shortages in western Kansas. The update calls for creating a 13,000-acre reservoir near the Nebraska border and pumping it nearly 360 miles—and more than 1,700 feet in elevation—to Utica, Kan. For a cash-strapped state, a proposal that would cost billions to execute is unlikely to go anywhere in the near term, especially with objections being raised to inundating land currently owned by farmers and the Ioway Indian tribe in northeast Kansas, as well as by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who called the plan “a hare-brained idea.”