BEST ACCOUNTING FIRM
They won the Gold as BKD, but balloting took place before the rebrand that followed the merger of that long-time Kansas City/Springfield firm and Dixon Hughes Goodman of Charlotte, N.C. So this year’s trophy will be engraved with the sparkling new FORVIS brand for the post-merger entity. Global accounting/consulting powerhouse KPMG, always neck-and-neck with BKD in years past for numbers of CPAs, picks up the Silver. St. Louis-based RubinBrown puts its name in the ledger for Bronze.
BEST ADVERTISING AGENCY
Kansas City’s creative class produces a sweep of local companies taking the medals for ad agencies. At the top of the list with Gold is Barkley, the brand-building powerhouse representing dozens of local, national, and global companies. Silver goes to Trozzolo, with a broad suite of advertising, branding, marketing, and analytical/consulting services. Bronze honors go to Bernstein-Rein, where strategy, creative services, and digital connections all come together for their many regional and national clients.
BEST ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM
This region long ago established its global chops in the design space, but what’s happened in sports architecture, in particular, has been truly impressive. Leading the pack there, in a lot of ways, is Gold winner Populous, which has a portfolio of stadium and public-venue work that stacks up with anyone’s, anywhere. Two more traditional design firms whose work focuses on the heavy lifting of public infrastructure—Burns & McDonnell and HNTB—share the Silver honors. And despite its petite size, Manica Architecture is designing sports venues around the planet, earning Bronze plaudits from voters.
The Kemper family banking legacy force is strong with Commerce Bank, which traces its roots to 1865. One of the city’s biggest banks, measured in terms of either assets or local deposits, is also one of the state’s biggest and now tops $36 billion in assets. Nowhere near as long in the tooth—founded in 2007—is CrossFirst Bank, the Silver winner that has grown bigger and faster than any bank in this region over that period. Bronze goes to Topeka-based Capitol Federal.
BEST ENGINEERING FIRM
The Wow! Factor in engineering applies not only to the level of work turned in by Burns & McDonnell but by the organizational growth of our Gold winner. Bearing down on nearly 5,000-strong with the Kansas City workforce, and 10,000 worldwide, Burns & Mac helps power the planet with its infrastructure work. The task of engineering buildings that work consumes more than 1,000 employees at Lenexa-based Henderson Engineers, which shines with Silver. Black & Veatch, another global powerhouse in infrastructure projects, pick up the Bronze.
BEST COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR
JE Dunn Construction Co. long ago became a pillar of business, civic and philanthropic life in these parts, and that loyalty draws a direct line to the Best of Business balloting. Dunn is among the handful of companies that have never surrendered Gold recognition in this competition. Silver goes to McCownGordon Construction, which isn’t nearly as old as Dunn but flexes almost as much muscle with its billings in this region. And the relative upstart Centric, founded in 2010, has already surpassed the $100 million in revenue mark, with designs on more and bigger.
BEST RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE FIRM
There’s a reason ReeceNichols is the biggest residential real-estate broker in this region, with its agents massing more than $5 billion in sales last year. In a sphere where reputation and service are everything, ReeceNichols again asserts its market dominance to earn the Gold. Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate splits the Silver award with Keller Williams. And fast-growing United Country Real Estate, one of 10 divisions of national powerhouse United Real Estate Group, closes on Bronze.
BEST COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE FIRM
From sales and leasing to the management of facilities, properties, and consulting, Newmark Zimmer is a full-service, locally headquartered commercial realty heavyweight that racks up Gold here. Dallas-based CBRE, with a big footprint in this market, earns Silver, while Bronze produced a tie between Copaken Brooks and Block Real Estate Services.
BEST HOSPITAL/MEDICAL CENTER
In this category, it appears, that size does matter: The University of Kansas Health System has the biggest single-site hospital in the market. But the quality of care matters, too, and CEO Bob Page has been beating the drum of patient satisfaction for decades. It pays off with Gold recognition from readers who, no doubt in many cases, have been patients there. Saint Luke’s Health System, with 18 hospitals that range from large medical centers to community and specialty-care units, earns the Silver. Two more of the region’s five biggest—North Kansas City Hospital and AdventHealth Shawnee Mission—share Bronze honors.
BEST GROUND TRANSPORTATION
It’s all about the ride—and the customer service—at Agenda: USA, which long ago morphed from limo rentals into a full-service destination-management and event-production company. That suite of vehicle options and services set the standard for Gold. Leader Worldwide, orchestrating chauffeured services around the world, parks the Silver, while Overland Chauffeured Services, based in Leawood, garners the Bronze.
BEST HEALTH INSURER
With more than a million area clients, it’s clear that folks here have a fondness for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City. How fond? Blue KC had more votes than any firm in any category for this recognition, even when you exclude a rather healthy display of employer loyalty that showed up in the balloting. UnitedHealthcare, with more market share nationwide than any other insurer, underwrites the Silver award. Bronze produced a tie between Humana, No. 4 nationally in market share, and another member of the Blues family, Topeka-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.
BEST DRY CLEANING
Is there really a difference between dry cleaners? Yes, indeed, declare the numerous fans of Hangers Cleaners, who turned out in force to vote here. Maybe it’s for the quality of the job done, maybe it’s for the access with four area locations, or maybe it’s the pick-up and return services, but all of it is solid Gold with Ingram’s discerning readers. Pride Cleaners, with 42 locations spanning from Harrisonville to Kearney, steps up to claim the Silver. Bronze honors go to Tide Cleaners, which also offers alterations, folding services, and cleaning of household items and shoes.
They took the wrappings of the gleaming new Loews Kansas City Hotel early in the pandemic, but the lack of large gatherings did little to stem the reception among voters, who awarded Gold to that 800-room Downtown attraction. Not far into the suburbs, the 412-room Sheraton Overland Park Hotel earns Silver, not just for the quality of the guest experience but for its immediate access to the Overland Park Convention Center. Circling back toward Downtown, the new 131-room Crossroads Hotel has already made a splash with readers, earning Bronze honors.
BEST MEETING FACILITY
This voting should be a wake-up call at 12th and Oak because top honors for the best conference center in these parts isn’t in the big city; it’s in the suburbs. And voting for the 60,000-square-foot Overland Park Convention Center wasn’t even close. Silver goes to Loews Kansas City Hotel, earning recognition right out of the gate from its opening two years ago. Union Station Kansas City, a popular venue for large corporate events, pulls in the Bronze.
BEST LAW FIRM
The founder has hung up his shingle, but his work is done: Polsinelli is not just the biggest law firm based here; it’s the Gold standard for readers who understand the value of top-shelf legal services. The oldest firm west of the Mississippi River is Lathrop GPM, which earns Silver recognition for its full-service legal skills. Tied for Bronze honors are Spencer Fane, another business-law specialist, and Stinson LLP, whose own business acumen is highlighted by a solid reputation in financial services law.
BEST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
Gold honors in the senior-living category belong to the Silvercrest Senior Living brand, with its Deer Creek and College View facilities in Overland Park. Both, like nearby Meadowbrook, are part of the Dial Senior Living family. Johnson County, as it happens, produced a sweep in this category, with Tallgrass Creek of Overland Park polishing the Silver and Lakeview Village (Lenexa) sharing the Bronze with Santa Marta (Olathe).
Massage therapy, skin care, and other restorative services earn Gold honors for Spa on Penn, located in the heart of Westport. Energy therapies, make-up, waxing, and laser hair removal make the Spa on Penn a full-service answer to your recharging needs. The Silver trophy goes to that popular Excelsior Springs destination, The Elms Hotel & Spa, and its expansive, 25,000-square- foot spa. Woodhouse Spa, in Leawood’s Town Center Plaza, is part of a national chain with 80 locations.
BEST WEALTH MANAGER
Nobody—and we mean nobody—has tilted the poles of wealth management in this region at the scale that Peter Mallouk has with his team at Creative Planning. Last year’s merger with Lockton Retirement Ser-vices pushed this Gold winner’s combined assets under management past $210 billion and climbing, within striking distance of becoming the region’s biggest wealth manager. The acquisition tear that Marty Bicknell’s team has been on at Mariner Wealth Advisors has created another nationally known brand, and that’s good for Silver. Country Club Bank, with a suite of financial services including wealth-building guidance for individuals and businesses, earns the Bronze.
BEST WIRELESS CARRIER
Jumping up to claim the Gold for wireless service is T-Mobile, with it strong footprint in Kansas City following the merger with Sprint in recent years. Service, national coverage and pricing all come together to earn Gold status in this year’s balloting. Another of the nation’s biggest wireless providers is Verizon, with 148 million customers; it gets the nod for Silver. AT&T, the nation’s other top challenger for mobile-services supremacy in a fiercely competitive marketplace, earns the Bronze.