To be candid, something about the phrase “giving back” has always nagged at us here at Ingram’s. Part of that is because of the exclusivity of its use: When was the last time you heard that term applied to the philanthropic contributions of a blue-collar worker, indistinguishable in their nobility from those of his employer?
Part of it is that the philanthropy itself is viewed as an obligation to the broader community, but one too often viewed outside the context of the lifelong commitment that business executives have clearly demonstrated to the community. It is, after all, through their investment of time, tears, sweat and financial resources that more than 100 million Americans are able to cash a paycheck, buy a home or a big-screen television, put gas in a new car, or send their kids to the orthodontist, private schools or universities.
Successful business owners, executives and public servants, by definition, have given back a great deal long before the first dollar of philanthropy comes out of their checkbooks, followed by many more.
Here, then, is the 2014 class of Ingram’s Legends, people who have contributed greatly toward a better Kansas City by virtue of the businesses they’ve built, the lives they’ve touched and, yes, by what they gave to this community.
Please join us in saluting those contributions, which indeed have changed our corner of this world.
The successes are legendary—building a brand for a nascent Wal-Mart, coming up with the Happy Meal for McDonald’s, etc.—but if you ask Bob Bernstein what stands out in his mind after half a century of killer ad campaigns with Bernstein-Rein, he’ll tell you: The latest one. “If you asked me that a month ago I’d say one thing, and two months from now it will be something different,” he says. “Everything is a major push for us and something we’re very proud of.”
Since its founding 50 years ago, B-R has served as one of the region’s premier agencies by looking deeper with each client. “We try to find the soul of a brand,” Bernstein says. A recent beneficiary of that soul-searching is the revived Hostess Brands, reincarnated last year after its predecessor’s closing.
That kind of national presence in ad circles has been a constant almost from the day he and Skip Rein launched the firm. Bernstein, though, is more than an ad guy: among other ventures, his entrepreneurial zest prompted him to found the salon/spa retail chain Beauty Brands, where he also served as CEO before selling a majority interest earlier this month.
And his civic and philanthropic engagements run deep and wide.
Kansas City’s disproportionate creative class—drawn by the gravitational pull of a company like Hallmark—has produced artists, designers, printers and others who can crank out top-tier work, he says. Today, an Internet connection means ad agencies, architects and engineers can work from anywhere, but pre-Web, the big firms clustered on the coasts. “In the early ’80s, we picked up an account headquartered in Los Angeles,” Bernstein recalls. “When the media asked why they’d selected an agency in Kansas City, they answered, “We didn’t select Kansas City; we selected Bernstein-Rein, which happens to be located in Kansas City.’”
Other advantages include the lifestyle he grew up with in Kansas City. “It’s the grass-roots, the ability to understand the middle class and the working class,” he said. “We’re in the middle of middle America and we really understand it better than anyone else. There’s also a lot of talent here, everything you would need, and that’s what makes it one of the strongest agency markets in the country.”
And talent, Bernstein says, it what the ad game is all about: “Our inventory,” he says, “goes down the elevator every night.”
His grandfather founded the Lawrence Journal-World in 1891, his father spent an entire career there, and Dolph Simons Jr. has been there for more than 55 years, most of that time as publisher, editor, or both. The history of Lawrence, in some sense, is intertwined with that of the Simons family, and the current patriarch has chronicled the evolution of the college town into a vital part of the greater Kansas City area.
The key to advancing the interests of both the newspaper and Lawrence—indeed, the entire corridor from Manhattan, Kan., to Columbia, Mo.—he said, with a favorite phrase, has been “driving with your brights on”—having not just a vision, but a vision to look farther down the road and see what’s truly possible. “If you get complacent and think you’ve got things made, you are headed for a serious fall,” he says.
That outlook has framed the Journal-World’s editorial and opinion outlook for decades. And while big-city dailies continue to whither, Simons has demonstrated the true value proposition of print in the Internet era—and this, from a guy who still prefers a typewriter to a computer keyboard.
“One of our roles is to have the courage to point out things that are wrong and try to inspire and urge people to do a better job,” he said. “The printed word has played one hell of a role in keeping the public informed,” he said. “That’s our responsibility and obligation” and one he’s passing on to two sons in the business.
After short stints overseas early in his career, Simons became a revered journalistic figure back home, as a director of the Associated Press for 11 years, board member for the Kansas Associated Press, the Inland Daily Press Association, the Kansas Press Association, and the William Allen White Foundation, and as a four-time Pulitzer Prize juror.
Ties to his alma mater run deep, with service on the KU Endowment Association board and the KU Alumni Association board. He’s a recipient of the Fred Ellsworth Award for service to KU and the university’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation. He’s also served on a long list of organizations focued on life sciences, the arts and education.
“I’ve had every break a person could possibly have,” Simons says. “My grandfather and my father worked so much harder and overcame so much more difficulty. I was given a tremendous break with the Journal-World.”
Now this is endurance: In 2010, seeking a fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Emanuel Cleaver charged into the teeth of a Republican wave election—and still garnered more than 53 percent of the vote, nearly 9 full points ahead of the GOP’s Jacob Turk.
It was additional, though superfluous, confirmation of the high status awarded Cleaver by voters in Missouri’s 5th Congressional District, who accorded him a 23-point win over Turk just two years later. That status comes from a blend of historical ties to the region—Cleaver broke the color barrier in Kansas City’s mayor’s office n 1991—as well as his reputation as a hard-core progressive: various liberal interest groups assign him lifetime scores of up to 100 percent on his congressional voting record, while conservatives tend to place him at 0-10 percent. But neither of those square with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lifetime score of 39 percent, which suggests Cleaver isn’t entirely about ideology.
He has pro-business views; they just tend to be framed by a belief that government has a vital role in priming the pump. His tenure as mayor—and before that, for 12 years on the City Council—saw a number of city overtures lure some big-name companies to the city. Particular points of pride are his involvement to secure homes in the city for CitiCorp, Harley Davidson and Transamerica. And Cleaver has been a booster of the 18th and Vine Redevelopment, the Brush Creek reconstruction-beautification project, the proposed new facility for the American Royal, and creation of a family division in the municipal court.
In Congress, he secured federal funding for what’s known as the Green Impact Zone, perhaps the most ambitious initiative of his D.C. tenure. Roughly $125 million in federal support has poured into a 150-block area of east Kansas City since 2009, with a goal of creating a sustainable, low-crime zone with improved infrastructure, all of which would support a commercial rebirth in the area.
A native of Waxahachie, Texas, he’s also a Methodist minister, having earned a Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology, and he put that to work for 37 years as pastor at St. James United Methodist Church.
He and his wife, Dianne, have raised four children and have three grandchildren.
“Invited” to go to work for himself by his father, an old-school plumber with little regard for a young upstart with a business-school degree, Charles Garney launched an empire from a run-down Northland hamburger joint. The winter wind rattled against the windows that first day; the water well was occupied by a dead rat. Times were tough.“We had three employees and no work,” Garney recalls. “But we brainstormed—it was like strategic planning, in a way—
coming up with ideas. It wasn’t long before we were making a lot of money. That first year, we expected to make $5,000, and we made $70,000, and averaged 10-15 percent growth for the 10 years that followed.”
Thus was born a forerunner to Garney Holding Co., a small first step on a trip that has taken Garney from plumbing to banking, water-system construction, real-estate development and more. By his count, more two dozen companies over the past 53 years—roughly one every 26 months. The flag-
ship, Garney Construction, did nearly $500 million last year. An owner’s interest in that would yield a tidy sum—except that Garney no longer owns it. He sold his last share of it to his employees in 1995, making millionaires out of dozens who had done the same for him.
That model, Garney says, has worked with every company he’s owned. Even if he came into one reluctantly, as with the money-losing proposition he inherited with Trezo Mare, the anchor restaurant in his signature Briarcliff Village development. After the leaders bailed, Garney called a meeting of the 65 employees—“even a dishwasher showed up,” he marvels—and laid out the plan: They would get ownership stakes in the restaurant; he would get out of their way.
“I didn’t tell the cook how to cook, the manager how to manage or the servers how to serve,” Garney says. “I don’t have a clue. But I put people together and let them come up with their own goals and objectives.”
From annual losses of $200,000, the restaurant was at break-even within five months, and on pace for six-figure annual profits within seven. “I own 43 percent, they own 57 percent,” he says, wryly noting: “It’s a lot better to have 43 percent of a $100,000 profit than 100 percent of a $200,000 loss.”
There are Kansas City Legends, and there are the Kansas City Barbecue Legends, a group with considerably fewer opportunities for recognition. But there’s no denying that Ollie Gates has earned his chops—and his ribs, briskets, chickens, hot links—among the both sets.
For more than 60 years, Gates has been driving the growth of the company founded by his parents, George and Arzelia, back in 1946 at 19th and Vine. The restaurant’s offerings were influence by Arthur Pinkard, who had worked for the man considered founder of Kansas City barbecue, Henry Perry. That made the newfound restaurant one of only two that could claim those historic roots.
Today, Gates—it’s one of a handful of barbecue joints known to most everyone in Kansas City by a single word—has roughly 1,500 employees under its six red-roofed locations across the metro area, and also distributes its distinctive sauce to retailers in the region.
Three years after the first location opened, young Ollie graduated from high school and headed east, enrolling at Maryland State College before moving back closer to home to finish school at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. During that time, he worked in the family business before a two-year stint in the Army as an engineer, after which came back and started with the company full-time.
The famed centrality factor so often cited by executives from companies in distribution settings also played a key role in the expansion of Gates’ reputation, but from a different perspective. Because of Kansas City’s reputation as a destination for conventions and sporting events, particularly during the company’s early years, tens of thousands of travelers were able to sample the fare. Word-of-mouth advertising proved invaluable.
Among his civic contributions, Gates was a longtime member of the Kansas City Parks Board, where he pushed for park beautification and improved access for handicapped children, and was heavily involved in helping the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center retire its debt. He also has contributed to building fountains and memorials honoring African American war veterans. As an entrepreneur wearing more than an apron, he has also developed a pair of inner-city sites as retail shopping centers.
In 1987, the Kansas City real-estate world was rocked with news that the high-flying Kroh Brothers Development Co. had gone bust. Behind the headlines, Jerry Reece saw opportunity. Seventeen years after starting his real estate career with Kroh Bros. Realty Co., he bought the brokerage’s residential real estate division, and Kansas City had a new name in home sales: J.D. Reece Realtors.
Since then, he’s sold to a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and merged with the firm founded by the legendary J.C. Nichols. Result? “From 2002 through 2013, we’ve sold about $50 billion in residential transactions,” he said of Reece & Nichols, this market’s run-away leader, which also offers mortgage and titling services. “That’s about 250,000 units. On the mortgage side, we did about $6 billion in that period, and we titled about 150,000 units.”
Few, then, have left a bigger imprint on the Kansas City real estate market, but Reece deflects the credit for that. The key, he says, is “great people. We work for Warren Buffet, and he says, look for high intelligence, high energy and high integrity in employees. If you get the high intelligence and high energy, but not the integrity, it will ruin you.”
Reece has seen a marked evolution in real-estate sales over better than four decades, but notes one thing that hasn’t changed: “People are still people,” he says, “and it’s a people business.” Technology has made things more challenging with the advent of the Internet, but the business offers greater opportunities, he says, and the number of agents affiliated with Reece & Nichols—1,900— attests to that.
A 30-year officer in the Marine Reserves, where he retired at the rank of colonel, he’s now on the board of trustees for the University of Missouri-Kansas City and its capital campaign for the School of Education, and the board of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation’s real-estate charitable foundation. He’s also served on boards for the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Awards Foundation and
the Police Foundation of Kansas City, and his tenure with the Marines included 10 years on the national board of the Toys for Tots Foundation, to name just a few.
“I’m an advocate for education,” Reece says. His goal with all of that, he said, was finding a way to apply his skills where they could yield the greatest advantage.
Economic isolationists in 1990 looked on the concept of a North American Free Trade Agreement the way a vampire looks at garlic. Mike Haverty was not among them. At that point, he was president of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, and when free-trade advocates argued that NAFTA would make North America a stronger competitor in the world marketplace, and Haverty was making mental notes.
After starting his own transportation investment company, Haverty Corp., in 1993, he sounded out Landon Rowland, then chief executive of Kansas City Southern Industries, to talk about what seemed like an obvious fit: If the Mexicans privatized their rail network, KC Southern would be uniquely positioned, as a north-south line, to create a system serving in both nations. Before long, Kansas City Southern came calling for his services, and Haverty got on board to move the railroad forward on that goal.
The investments the Kansas City-based railroad would make in Mexico and Panama proved crucial to its growth. “This year is the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, which has been phenomenally successful and has, indeed, made North America competitive in the world marketplace,” Haverty said. And the company, which saw its share price at $7 after stock splits in 1997 and 2000, is valued at $117 a share today.
That’s testament to the leadership and vision of a man who gave up the chief executive’s duties at Kansas City Southern in 2010, and his role as chairman of the board last September—50 years after he first started in the business as a brakeman-switchman in his hometown of Atchison.
Looking back at his career, “it is not the batting average that counts,” Haverty says, “but rather the won/lost record over time. … I have tried to teach our children, and management teams I have been associated with over the years, that life is a bit of a roller coaster with many ups and downs. I have preached that you never get too high during the good times, nor too low during the bad times.”
Haverty and his wife, Marlys, have been active supporters of civic and educational initiatives. For close to 18 years, he’s worked to help in the revival of Union Station, and served on numerous other civic and non-profit boards. “We both strongly believe that we have an obligation to help others that are less fortunate than us,” Haverty says.
Shirley Helzberg lives by a creed: “If you change one person’s life, you change the world.”
Well, she definitely changed Barnett Helzberg’s life in 1967, when she accepted his marriage proposal. And she inspired in him one of the most enduring advertising concepts in retail jewelry history, the “I Am Loved” campaign that’s still going on today. She also worked with him to build Helzberg Diamonds into a national chain, leading up to its purchase by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway in 1995.
But her world-changing didn’t stop there.
For more than 40 years, Shirley Bush Helzberg has been a dynamo in her efforts to raise the profile of Kansas City art, culture, education and child welfare. There’s a reason that half of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is known as Helzberg Hall, and it’s not just because of the $10 million donation she and Barnett made during the fund-raising for Kansas City’s newest Downtown icon—she’s been president of the Kansas City Symphony board for nearly 20 years.
It’s hard to look around Kansas City and not see a quality-of-life project that doesn’t bear her fingerprints:
■ Performing arts. She’s been chairman of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, and she’s served at various times on the boards of the Starlight Theatre Association, the Kansas City Ballet, and as treasurer for the Kauffman Center.
■ Fine art. Since last May, she’s been president of the Nelson-Atkins board of trustees, and she was founding chairman of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City,
■ Education. She and her husband co-founded University Academy, with a mission to elevate the academic performance of students in Kansas City’s urban core, and she’s served on the board of the Kansas City Art Institute, and Pembroke Hill School Development Committee. She’s also led the Kansas City chapter of the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, and has served on the board for the Gillis Center.
And trust us, that’s nowhere near a full list of her contributions. What inspires that depth of civic commitment?
“It seemed imperative to me that the resources earned must be given back,” she told Ingram’s. “The more resources we enjoyed, the more we were able to give back.”
Before it could become a draw for entertainment and fine dining, lots of people had to take a bite out of the toad sandwich that was Downtown Kansas City in the 1990s. Was anyone’s portion larger than Herb Kohn’s? The veteran lawyer had a seat at the table when deals were cut to jump-start the Union Station redevelopment initiative, when H&R Block agreed to build its world headquarters Downtown, when the Sprint Center and the Power & Light District came to fruition … you get the idea. We know of no official title of “Mr. Downtown,” but Kohn would be a candidate if there were.
He graduated from Paseo High School in 1956, less than a decade after arriving from his native Amsterdam “not knowing English—not a word,” he says. He earned a law degree at Michigan, then came home, served as Jackson County counselor and spent 28 years at a firm where he was a partner.
He joined Bryan Cave in 1991 and practices corporate, business and banking law, focusing on acquisitions, financial transactions, banking and public finance.
Kohn also has a voracious appetite for civic commitment, including board service for the Truman Presidential Museum & Library and the finance committee of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. His tenure with the Kansas City Art Institute, he said, might have been the most interesting—and was definitely the most fun. “Getting to see the work product of the students out there—for a person who’s not really an artist, to see what those kids’ minds come up with is fascinating to me,” he said.
He says he’s no artist, but Kohn is more than familiar with the way a camera works. “I’ve had a few shows and photo exhibitions, including one up right now at Missouri Bank, and I’m getting ready for another,” he said. “I’ve been part of one at Union Station, but I don’t sell my photographs—I do give some away to charities for auctions.”
Among many other ventures he’s been involved with, Kohn has served as director of Missouri Boys State. His most recent challenge is co-chairing a task force seeking ways to expand early childhood education in the urban core, a role he says may be his most important ever.
“It’s been a pretty good life,” he says. “I don’t have anything I consider a disappointment—everything has been a plus.”
Under his guidance as managing director, Pat McLarney turned Shook, Hardy & Bacon from a well-known litigation firm with 65 lawyers into a national Top 100 firm, with more than 600 lawyers on staff. And he has a reputation as a prodigious fund-raiser for legal and other philanthropic causes. But his biggest contribution to Kansas City was his work as lead counsel for the plaintiffs following the Hyatt skywalks disaster in July 1981. The collapse claimed 114 lives, but roughly 1,400 others were in the lobby of the Downtown hotel that Friday night, and many suffered horribly.
Those responsible were vastly under-insured, McLarney recalls, and “it was an enormous challenge to get the right defendants into the case and to get the insurance companies to pay the money to get it settled. Otherwise, the second tragedy of the collapse would have been people not seeing enough compensation.” And yet all 1,500 plaintiffs received fair settlements, he said, within 18 months of the disaster—unthinkable in mass-tort litigation then or now.
“It was a great source of pride to the Kansas City bar and courts, and nationally, it’s seen as the way litigation should be handled,” he said.
When McLarney took over at Shook, “probably a dozen firms in Kansas City were our size or bigger,” he said. A strategic planning process set the course for the firm to focus heavily on litigation, opening the door for growth nationwide. That also became a template for other professional-services firms here: Enter high-cost markets, but draw on the back-office operations of a much lower-cost Kansas City. It turned out to be a huge competitive advantage. “I never had a business course in my life,” McLarney says. “I learned later that this was called a business plan.”
He also nutrured the firm’s extensive pro bono effort, and has a reputation himself as a fund-raising warrior—particularly on behalf of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, taking it from almost nothing to nearly $600,000 in contributions each year. “The key to making the ask is to make the ask,” says McLarney, who these days has his own private practice. “That’s the stumbling block most people have. It’s hard to ask other people, particularly people they know, to give money. You can overcome that by just training yourself to do something you don’t particularly like to do.”
Working in his father’s grocery store taught young Frank Oddo the value of organization and supervision.
A stint in the Air Force taught him leadership skills. But when it came time to start his career, Oddo drew on something that can’t be taught: Innate entrepreneurship. “The thought of working for someone else never crossed my mind,” he says. “I can’t think of one member of my mother’s or father’s family who wasn’t in business for themselves.”
The family grocery was the launchpad for what would come. “Knowing how difficult it was to find someone to clean the store, I decided to start a business that would offer cleaning services to other companies,” Oddo says. That decision 53 years ago laid the groundwork for City Wide Maintenance, a company now led by Oddo’s son Jeff, but still one of the region’s fastest-growing, with operations nationwide.
Building maintenance was a relatively new industry in 1961, Oddo says, but he drew on his education in accounting to develop time studies and methods on how to provide proper customer service—methods still in use today.
“City Wide grew one employee at a time, so it was easy for me to learn how to expand the business,” Oddo says.
After that, he followed the logic: the next company would distribute janitorial supplies, since he kept a large inventory of each item. Then came real estate development and management. “Learning how to build warehouses and apartment communities was more difficult,” Oddo says. “We acted as the general contractor, so I had to learn all phases of construction.” That meant working with architects and engineers on everything from design to HVAC. “Everything in construction is done in a specific order, so I literally learned real estate development from the ground up,” Oddo says.
He has turned Oddo Development Co., over to his son Rick, who like his brothers grew up in the family business. The Oddos have fulfilled a philanthropic yen by offering college scholarships for employees or their children who want to continue their education. “My favorite philanthropic groups,” Oddo says, “are St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Wounded Warriors and Boy Scouts.” He’s also on the board for the Boy Scouts Heart of America Council, and is active in the FBI Kansas City Citizens Academy Alumni Association and the World Presidents’ Organization.
Developers have the vision, lawyers provide the legalese, and commercial property owners have the potential for long-term gains. But none gets what he wants without the capital that greases the wheels of deals. And that’s where Tom Turner has made his mark: in commercial lending.
Turner, executive vice president of Grandbridge Real Estate Capital, has been involved in some of the most high-profile developments in the region over the past four decades. “There are a number that are special to me,” he says, running through a list that includes the Plaza/Highwoods deal, Hunt Midwest’s underground facility, American Century’s headquarters and more.
One would be challenged to navigate the streets of Kansas City without seeing evidence of Turner’s work, and he enjoys that aspect, himself. But beyond his own role, “I think of all of those who participated in that—a lot of people play a role in a completed project, most of whom nobody knows about because of confidential, legal or financial reasons.”
Those deals have given him keen insight into the Kansas City business community and the people who drive its growth. “As far as leadership is concerned in Kansas City, first, it has a very high integrity, and second, they really care about Kansas City,” Turner says.
Turner has an extensive roster of civic engagements, but notes that he never sought to use contacts made, say, in service to a non-profit board, to help with his own business interests. Still, he’s been surprised over his career at how those connections can end up leading to business deals, sometimes years down the road.
A Glasgow, Mo., native and a Mizzou grad, Turner has been in commercial realty since 1973, including a stint with his own firm, Charter American, which eventually was acquired by current parent Branch Banking & Trust.
Over the years, Turner has worked with many high-profile members of the region’s business leadership and been inspired by them; “integrity” is a word he uses often when talking about effective leaders. “I guess I was fortunate,” Turner said. “I’ve had a number of people who just simply gave me good advice, set good examples of leadership—they were honest and fair and most importantly, they did what was best for their clients.”
At some point, Jim Polsinelli will sit at the table one last time, providing legal guidance for one last client in a corporate merger or acquisition in the Kansas City region. And when he walks away from that deal, he’ll be leaving a far more sophisticated type of negotiation than lawyers in his niche could have imagined more than 40 years ago.
“The M&A world that exists today is extraordinarily different,” says Polsinelli. “There was no private equity, no efficient marketplace where companies were auctioned off, no investment bankers—all that didn’t exist,” he says. Today, there is a huge support system of investment bankers shopping for deals, banks looking to make loans, law firms that refine the documents. And it’s made a huge difference for the client.
Decades ago, “if Joe Entrepreneur had a nice business and wanted to sell, he’d go to a lawyer or accountant,” Polsinelli said, “someone would make a few calls, but in retrospect, he didn’t get nearly what he could get in today’s world.”
Just five years out of UMKC’s School of Law, Polsinelli joined with two other lawyers to launch the firm that bears his name today, and in terms of lawyers on staff, it’s the second-biggest in the Kansas City market. He’s seen the face of business change in Kansas City, and had a hand in a lot of that. The sale of a Lockton Companies business unit to DST a few years ago was a particularly memorable one, he said, because of what it meant to two great Kansas City institutions.
He has an impressive list of civic boards and advisory councils, but the causes nearest his heart involve education, particularly his family ties with Rockhurst High School. His father went there, his brothers, too, and his own sons, and Polsinelli was on the school’s board for a decade.
He was also on the Rockhurst University board for 9 years, and now sits on the UMKC Board of Trustees. That soft spot for educational causes, he says, can be traced to his childhood years in a family with little money, but education that has transformed lives across the generations.
His grandmother and father held masters’ degrees; he has one himself (as well as an honorary doctorate from UMKC), and two of his children do—a four-generation phenomenon. “Whatever success we’ve had as a family came from a strong belief, going back to my grandmother, in education,” he says.
A building isn’t just brick and mortar to Jim Calcara.
It’s more like a living, breathing part of the community, and if you don’t get the design right, it’s not going to reach its full potential. We’re not talking appearance—although an architect strives for what’s going to be considered an eye-pleasing structure. We’re talking functionality, efficiency, sustainability, cost effectiveness and ease of use, from the inside out.
Those have been goals of his since he graduated of Kansas State with an architecture degree in 1968. He honed his skills for a few years before co-founding a firm that eventually became CDFM2, which merged with Heinlein Schrock Stearns in 2004 to become 360 Architecture.
When it comes to hitting all the right notes, ‘the example I would talk about is the H&R Block building Downtown,” he says. “That was a project where you have a major corporation looking for an iconic building. It’s a large building, but shoulder to shoulder with One Kansas City Place and a couple of other really tall buildings—we were half the height.”
The challenge was putting up an icon in the middle of all that. Calcara’s team pulled that off with the elliptical shape that did indeed achieve instant-icon status for H&R Block. But it was more than than. Great design, he said, is “also about being a good neighbor. You don’t stand out above and beyond, you need to contribute to community as a whole.”
Calcara has been involved in numerous projects that have yielded signature buildings, since well before the 1990 remodeling of The American Restaurant, a project that earned the Allied Arts and Craftsmanship top honor from the American Institute of Architects in 1991. He’s also had a hand in the Power & Light District, Science City at Union Station and the terminal upgrades at Kansas City International Airport.
A self-described farm kid from the central Kansas town of Great Bend, Kansas City was home as soon as he got here. “This was the big city,” he says. “I didn’t need to go any farther.”
Calcara has also been actively involved with the Kansas City Zoo, where he joined the board in 2001 during a tumultuous period. “But we ended up working through issues with the master plan, changed the front entrance, made it more inviting and a better user experience, and I think my background was helpful in that respect,” he says.
Bill Worley’s personal brand of humor shines through when he tells you he earned his high school diploma from “Raytown Country Day” in 1960. His personal brand of entrepreneurship is considerably more complex.
A veterinarian by training from his days at Mizzou—hence the nickname—Worley showed early flashes of business acumen by running a south Kansas City fireworks stand while still in college. The first summer, he cleared a few hundred bucks—and realized he was up against bigger competition across the street. The next year, he secured rights to sell from both locations—and made $10,000 in a week.
After he finished school and opened a clinic in Lee’s Summit, a longtime acquaintance invited him to buy a tract of land for $350,000—and offered to finance it, too. “Which was good,” Worley says, “because I didn’t have any money.” Within days, a stranger pulled his car into the clinic’s lot, introduced himself as Mike Russell, and offered $320,000 for a sliver of that same land. “I’ve been,” Worley concedes, “lucky.”
But the real luck from that meeting came via the partnership they maintained for years (Russell died in 2009). Along the way, they made hundreds of deals—Russell as the boisterous visionary, Worley as the voice of fiscal restraint—and fortunes. From public storage units to restaurants, ownership of a series of veterinary clinics and the nation’s biggest chain of one-hour photo stores, Russell and Worley carved out one successful deal after another, buying low, selling high and reinvesting in other deals—hundreds of them.
That includes a stint as owners of Ingram’s. How does an MU veterinary school graduate come by those skills? “My mind,” Worley cracks, “was not polluted by business-school theories.”
Perhaps the biggest deal of all was Worley’s reluctant agreement to follow Russell’s vision for a series of business publications, including the Kansas City Business Journal in 1982. That evolved into a nationwide chain of papers in more than 40 markets, proving fabulously successful. They sold their interests in the chain after the tax-reform act of 1986 wrecked the book value of their real-estate holdings, leaving them in a nine-figure hole with creditors.
Intent on making good on his debts, Worley found a way to overcome that obstacle, too, and avoided bankruptcy.
“But it took a while to work through that,” Worley says.
In corporate communications terms, it wasn’t exactly the Wild, Wild West when the folks at FleishmanHillard in St. Louis sent Betsey Solberg to establish a Kansas City presence in 1977—but it was close. “The people in PR were the ones who put money into liquor wards in the north end on election day and showed up drunk the day after,” she recalls. “We came in and established a true corporate communications program, a way of communicating that had never been done.”
And right out of the gate, Client No. 1 demonstrated the need for those skills. It was the Kansas City School District, facing a teachers strike. The superintendent had called her—from a pay phone—saying he needed help communicating a consistent message, and had no one he could trust. “The media was calling a board member who would say one thing, then another with his own agenda,” Solberg says. She forged the consent of school board members to let her craft communications that they could deliver with a unified voice. “And it wasn’t spin; it was an honest response that communicated what the issues were,” she says.
Solberg retired in 2006, but was called back three years later after a series of leadership changes at the agency. Over her career, she also held leadership roles on behalf of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Area Development Council, duties that reinforced what she’d learned about the quality of the executive work force in Kansas City.
“I’ve worked with CEOs and executives all over the world, Solberg says. “And what you see in Kansas City is a level of CEO who cares a lot about the quality of life and a willingness to have not quite the ROI personally, in order to make sure there’s a finer quality of life for their employees, neighbors, stakeholders, even competitors.”
And when it comes to philanthropy, she notes, the corporate support for foundations here is also remarkable.
She’s currently the chair of the UMKC Foundation, which has $256 million in assets, and she’s been president of the Kansas City Police Foundation. Those efforts, she said, “are enormously gratifying because I think education is what defines us—not just the person, but the community. Smart people hanging around with other smart people do smart things—they innovate, they create new products or ideas. It’s a lot of fun to be part of that.”
He’s been alternately hailed as the best chief executive in America for his guidance of Wal-Mart, and lambasted by baseball fans throughout this region his tenure as CEO, then owner, of the Royals over the past 14 years. But in either role, David Glass has had an impact on the lives of virtually
everyone in Kansas City, baseball fan or not.
For the most part, that came from his tenure at Wal-Mart, where he worked for 25 years, nearly half of that as chief executive officer. During that time, the company grew from a small southern retailer with 123 stores into the nation’s biggest retail chain—and company. Glass put the company on a growth arc that would eventually make it the nation’s largest private employer. More than 2.2 million people nationwide work for Wal-Mart, roughly 18,000 of them in the Kansas City region.
For the final seven years of his retailing stint, Glass was also CEO of the Royals, stepping in after the death of Ewing Kaufman to run the show and eventually becoming owner by paying $96 million for the team in 2000.
Royals fans know the rest: A seemingly never-ending youth movement saw the payroll cut nearly in half in the 1990s, and the losses began to mount. After nearly a decade out of the running for the playoffs, and a series of once-unthinkable 100-plus-loss seasons, the Royals showed life last year, falling just short of a wild-card spot. But they were in the running into late September.
One tradition the club did continue from the days of Kauffman’s ownership was its extensive involvement in community affairs, with a long list of annual fund-raising drives, volunteer and good-will engagements by players, coaches, executives and staff, and support for various non-profits in the region.
Not long after Glass became owner, the team unveiled Royals Charities, which supports education, youth sports and causes connected to the military; since its inception, it has donated more than $7 million to those causes. And since 2000, Glass has also been a member of the board of directors for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A native of Mountain Grove, Mo., Glass graduated from Missouri State University, where Glass Hall, home of the school of business, is named in his honor.
How many of us can truthfully say that our life’s work has made the world a safer place to live? James Spigarelli is too modest to cast it that way, but the former CEO of Midwest Research Institute can point to his early work there as a research scientist, work with far-reaching impact.
“From the late 1960s to the late 1980s, MRI helped to bring about the most successful international treaty in U.S. history, banning the production, use and stockpiling of chemical weapons,” Spigarelli recalls. “The Chemical Warfare Convention, signed in 1987, has resulted in the elimination of over 95 percent of the world’s supply of these weapons of mass destruction. I was fortunate to be part of the
U.S. team providing technical advice to treaty negotiators.”
The verification entity created by that treaty won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and continues its work these days on weapons found in Syria. “I am proud of having been part of the MRI team that provided some of the key technology and analytical strategies without which a verifiable treaty would not have been possible,” Spigarelli says.
He joined MRI, now MRIGlobal, in 1970, and became CEO in 1999, retiring in 2009. During that decade, he developed a new business model to increase the scope and impact of the lab. MRI added expertise in chemical and biological defense and renewable energy—skills that would become vitally important to the nation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax threat.
The credit for all those successes, he said, goes to the dedicated people working in teams at the labs: “Rarely are significant contributions achieved by the individual scientists working in isolation,” he said.
Spigarelli was also instrumental in the early effort to build a life-sciences economy in metropolitan area, including efforts that led to creation of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute—MRI served as its incubator intially, then provided its first CEO, Bill Duncan.
The institute, he says, played a pivotal role in helping the University of Kansas Hospital gain National Cancer Center designation, promoting the animal-health corridor, assisting K-State in winning the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, and establishing the Kansas Bioscience Authority,
all bolstering the region’s life sciences reputation.