PUBLISHED JUNE 27, 2023
BEST ACCOUNTING FIRM
With accounting firms, it’s all about the numbers, so no surprise that the firm with the region’s biggest numbers—as in CPAs on staff—is also the favorite for Gold: Springfield-based FORVIS. This year’s merger of the former BKD and Charlotte-based DHG created a Top 10 national power, as well as a local market leader with services in audit, tax, and business consulting. Silver is shared between KPMG, combining a strong local presence with the power of brand, and RSM, serving the middle market with audit, tax, and consulting.
BEST LARGE ADVERTISING AGENCY
Going toe-to-toe with large national and global powers, BERNSTEIN-REIN may be the smallest of the medalists here, but there’s no questioning its collective heart and loyalty of executive readers, who award it the Gold. BARKLEY, whose iconic TWA rocket atop the Downtown headquarters speaks volumes about its branding awareness, secures the Silver as it nears its 60th year in business. And the biggest of the three is Bronze-winning VMLY&R, truly a worldwide presence with offices on six continents (sorry, Antarctica).
BEST SMALL ADVERTISING AGENCY
Strategic communications, marketing, PR, brand-building—it’s a surprisingly robust line of services for a firm in this category, and it all works to secure Gold for TROZZOLO, whimsically known as the Gee Whiz Factory. Hard-charging CRUX KC moving up among the region’s fastest-growing companies secures Silver with its innovative approach to fractional CMO and outsourced marketing services. Securing the Bronze: NOVELLA BRANDHOUSE, small but mighty, with a client list that includes The Big Biscuit, Abita Brewing Co., and Monster Bass, among others.
The affinity for local banks comes shining through here. Start with COMMERCE BANK for the Gold, with a focus on relationship banking that goes back more than 155 years and a wide range of commercial banking, lending, and investment services. Silver goes to that other branch of the Kemper family banking tree, UMB BANK (No. 1 in this market for asset and deposit size), which shares the honors with SECURITY BANK. And rounding out the honorees is COUNTRY CLUB BANK, with the Bronze.
BEST SMALL COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR
Well, that didn’t take long: Just six years after business incorporation, MONARCH founder Courtney Kounkel has turned the Overland Park general contractor into a Gold-winning honoree in this category. That’s been done through a mix of success in office, health-care, retail, and sporting/recreational construction, demonstrating a broad range of competencies. Silver honors go to LUKE DRAILY CONSTRUCTION, which proudly boasts a 90 percent client retention/referral rate. COMANCHE CONSTRUCTION of Olathe, a heavy contractor specializing in bridge construction, picks up the Bronze.
BEST LARGE COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR
Nearly 25 years in the making, McCOWNGORDON CONSTRUCTION has built its brand in general contracting excellence, civic engagement, philanthropy, and workplace design as an employee-owned enterprise. That paid off this year with its first Gold, displacing Silver winner JE DUNN CONSTRUCTION, the hometown powerhouse that had won top honors every year since 2000. The Kansas City division of national powerhouse TURNER CONSTRUCTION, which has a lead role in the $4 billion Panasonic EV battery plant in De Soto, is presented the Bronze.
BEST COMMERCIAL PRINTER
It starts with high-quality digital and offset printing, but there’s much more about SOLI PRINTING—prepress and design work, copying, bindery and finishing work, mailing/fulfillment, and promotional product generation—that inspires Gold accolades for this Crossroads printing firm. ALPINE LITHO-GRAPHICS in south Kansas City earns Silver and prides itself on personalized service from the bidding process forward. And Lenexa-based PRECISION PRINTING, serving the non-profit and business worlds, snags the Bronze.
BEST COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE FIRM
The region’s biggest, voters say, is also the region’s best, so BLOCK REAL ESTATE SERVICES is the pick for Gold honors. No doubt, that’s for its full-service line as a commercial realty brokerage, builder, developer, property manager, and investment firm. Weighing in with Silver is another storied name from local commercial realty development, COPAKEN BROOKS. The firm owns some of the region’s most iconic structures, and it’s an active developer with new projects. Two firms split Bronze honors: KESSINGER HUNTER, doing what it does best since 1979, and NEWMARK ZIMMER, which helps make the category a clean sweep for local firms.
BEST DRY CLEANING
If you’re building a brand in this space, it doesn’t hurt to flood the zone and make accessibility a core characteristic. With an impressive 42 area locations, PRIDE CLEANERS does just that and reaps the Gold as a reward. Convenience matters, too, which is why TIDE CLEANERS offers lockers, 24/7 kiosk, and pickup and delivery services—all good enough to claim Silver here. And a perennial medalist in this category, HANGERS CLEANERS, is back for more with Bronze this year.
BEST ENGINEERING FIRM
Yes, BURNS & MCDONNELL has doubled its Kansas City design/build workforce in recent years; A reputation for global delivery of key infrastructure projects is what earned yet another Gold, an unbroken streak that dates back more than 20 years. HENDERSON ENGINEERS of Lenexa, specialists in the design of systems that make buildings work, earns the Silver. And completing a sweep for employee-owned design firms, the Bronze is shared by BLACK & VEATCH and U.S. ENGINEERING.
BEST GROUND TRANSPORTATION
By living up to its motto—“Quality Without Compromise”—KC TRANSPORTATION GROUP scores the Gold for its suite of services (local and global) in white-glove transportation services for corporate travel, airport runs, weddings, senior prom or just a night on the town. Silver honors go to AGENDA: USA, where your ride is only the beginning; event planning, group logistics, and convention services are all part of the conversation.
BEST HEALTH CLUB
As they say, health is a lifestyle, so the best health clubs must be more than gyms. LIFE TIME FITNESS is the exemplar of a modern health club, offering everything from personal training to cardio and weight training to sporting events, all designed to empower communities. An easy choice for Gold. Silver goes to GENESIS HEALTH CLUBS, with 16 area locations that offer a variety of membership opportunities. Finally, from its origins as a racquet club to a holistic health and fitness center, WOODSIDE is the selection for Bronze.
BEST HEALTH INSURER
Scale matters: For the biggest health-care insurer in this marketplace, serving more than 1 million clients—BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF KANSAS CITY—there are plenty of eligible voters out there, and they showed up to deliver the Gold here. Individual, family, or coverage in employee benefits plans, Blue KC offers solutions for nearly every risk-management need. Silver is split between UNITEDHEALTHCARE and AETNA, with HUMANA stepping in to gather up the Bronze.
BEST HOSPITAL/MEDICAL CENTER
THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEALTH SYSTEM, which now includes Olathe Health, is a market-leading behemoth that serves more than twice as many admitted patients as any other institution. That shows up in the voting patterns as it bags another Gold. SAINT LUKE’S HEALTH SYSTEM, poised to become Missouri’s preeminent provider with the planned BJC Health merger, earns the Silver. The Bronze belongs to ADVENTHEALTH SHAWNEE MISSION, which has expanded its footprint to encompass more than just a slice of northern Johnson County.
Our civic champions promised us a new jewel in the tiara of Kansas City hotels, and that came true with the 2020 opening of the LOEWS KANSAS CITY HOTEL. COVID or no COVID, it has quickly become a Gold-level favorite of readers with its 800 guest rooms, lobby bar, on-site restaurant, and more. Splitting Silver this year are the more intimate 126-room RAPHAEL HOTEL on the Plaza and Downtown’s historic HOTEL KANSAS CITY, with 160 rooms and suites. SHERATON CROWN CENTER, a staple of the convention and event silo, picks up the Bronze.
BEST LAW FIRM
Red hot. That’s the only way to describe the voting here, and as one might expect, the largest firms in the market dominated, with SPENCER FANE securing the Gold for its mastery of all legal matters relating to business transactions and litigation. Each of the next two levels produced ties, with Lathrop GPM and POLSINELLI settling for Silver, and Bronze going to HUSCH BLACKWELL and STINSON LLP. Combined, those firms wield the legal expertise of more than 700 lawyers who represent business and individual clients across the nation.
BEST MEETING FACILITY
When we say voters like the Overland Park Convention Center, we mean they really like it: The center adds another Gold to an unbroken string dating to 2010. Sitting adjacent to the 412-room Sheraton and with more than 58,000 square feet of exhibition hall space, it’s easy to see why. Silver goes to Bartle Hall and the KC Convention Center, the granddaddy of meeting facilities anchoring Downtown. Two other Downtown facilities—Loews Kansas City Hotel, just across Baltimore Avenue from Bartle, and the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, just blocks to the north—share the Bronze.
BEST RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE FIRM
Just 15 years into its overnight success, PLATINUM REALTY surged to the top of regional real-estate firms in terms of sales volume and, in 2022, overtook the storied ReeceNichols for the top spot. So nobody should be shocked to see this brand, now part of United Real Estate Group, scooping up Gold. The Silver honors go to a pair of brand flags flown by multiple agencies in the market, RE/MAX and KELLER WILLIAMS. That leaves Bronze to be divided between REECENICHOLS and BETTER HOMES & GARDENS.
Few categories evoke smiles of knowing satisfaction like this one. And few operators in that space are as consistently recognized with Gold as BIJIN SALON & SPA, the Prairie Village oasis that does it again this year. From head to toe, with massage therapy, skincare—and now, even CBD services—this spa is here to help relax and rejuvenate. Patrons find a similar outlet by heading up to THE ELMS HOTEL & SPA in Excelsior Springs, a perennial fan favorite that racks up this year’s Silver. WOODHOUSE SPA in Leawood’s Towne Center enters medalist territory with Bronze.
BEST WEALTH MANAGER
Once upon a time, it was a boutique wealth planning firm; today, it’s the market monolith: CREATIVE PLANNING has more than $250 billion in assets under management, which people have voted with their dollars as well as Best of Business ballots. The Overland Park firm has branched from basic financial planning services into insurance, legal services—anything that touches a client’s financial position. Another fast-growing concern, MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS—now with more than $90 billion AUM—rings up the Silver. And another multi-billion-dollar fiduciary, FAS WEALTH PARTNERS, secures Bronze.
BEST WIRELESS CARRIER
Even before the 2021 merger, T-MOBILE was giving the hometown competitor a consistent run for the money in this category. Following that acquisition, its position has grown only stronger with readers here, leading to this year’s Gold. That unified customer base was enough—barely—to hold off VERIZON, which has to settle for the Silver and look to the next round of competition in 2024. Bronze falls to the legacy name in communications, AT&T.