New ED Direction
For the first time in more than a year, Cass County has an economic-development director. The county has contracted with Spectrum
Strategies and its owner, Bill Brown, to oversee its development initiatives. That fills a role vacated when the previous director resigned in October 2013. Brown, a Lee’s Summit resident, has previously served as chairman of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Corp.
$80M Shopping Center Planned
RED Legacy has proposed what it calls a “new front door” for the city of Liberty in the form of an $80 million shopping center dubbed Liberty Commons, to be built at the intersection of I-35 and Missouri 152. The new center, with more than 332,000 square feet of retail space, would also include a seven-story hotel. RED has not yet announced the anchor tenants for the center, which could be open in mid-2016 if construction can begin as planned this spring.
Hotel TIF Hearing
KC’s Tax Increment Financing Commission has scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 14 to consider a request to use TIF proceeds for a
project that would turn the former headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of KC into a hotel. Developing Equities Group has closed on the 94-year-old building, with plans to turn the 21-story structure into a 300-room hotel.
AT&T Girds for Gigabit
AT&T has begun offering its Business Fiber service, with enhanced Internet speeds of 300 megabits per second, to businesses in the Kansas City area. The new service is part of a longer-range plan to eventually offer 1 gig-abit-per-second service to commercial customers, and it makes Kansas City the 16th market nationwide to receive the enhanced service.
UCM-Lee’s Summit Schools Align
The University of Central Missouri will partner with the Lee’s Summit school district to build a shared educational facility for both
high school and college students at the Summit Technology Acadamy/Missouri Innovation Campus. The two organizations are already partnering with Metropolitan Community College in the innovation campus, which opened in late 2012 and has won acclaim for reducing both the time needed to earn a degree and the costs involved. MIC students at Summit Tech for their junior and senior years of high school can earn their associate degree from MCC concurrent with their high school diplomas, and a bachelor’s degree from UCM within two more years.
Housing Development Appeal Filed Opponents of the 350-home Chapel Ridge residential development aren’t taking “dismis-
sed” for an answer; more than 40 plaintiffs in a long-running legal dispute have filed an appeal over a judge’s order dismissing their lawsuit aimed at blocking the development. The plan, twice rejected by the county’s planning and zoning authority, was approved in late
2013 on a split—and disputed—vote by the County Commission. The development, nearby residents say, would infuse too much density into the largely exurban setting.
KU Center Sees Banks Bounce Back
The Center for Banking Excellence at the University of Kansas has released its assessment of banking health in the state, concluding that the state’s banks have largely recovered from financial crisis of 2008. The report measured various performance indicators, including size of each bank’s assets, return on those assets, and return on equity. It said that banks, after experiencing significant improvement so far, could expect to see gradual increases in lending and profitability in the near term.
City commissioners in Lawrence are trying to resolve the question of whether they should allow common carriage of Internet service in the city, which proponents say would encourage more competition in the market for consumers. That standard would allow any
company to use another company’s lines to provide service, subject to access charge. But RG Fiver, based in Baldwin, stated it will scrap its plans to bring gigabit-speed service to Lawrence if the common-carriage standards are approved.
Brookridge Site Incentives
The Overland Park City Council has approved a project that would redevelop the 194-acre site of the former Brookridge Golf Club at a cost of $2.7 billion, including more than $600 million in public incentives. Overland Park Development Co. has suggested that the massive mixed-use project could require $306 million in tax-increment financing, as well as $130 mil. in STAR bonds that would have to be approved by the state, plus $110 million from designation of a community improvement district and $27 million from the city. The 15-year timetable calls for retail magnet that would create 20,000 jobs.
Food Sales Tax Targeted
A non-profit group backed by the Kansas Health Foundation is working to build support for efforts that would end the state’s sales tax on food. The group, KC Healthy Kids, said the state’s 6.15 percent sales tax on groceries trailed only Mississippi, which levies a 7 percent tax, among the 14 states that still tax food sales. Their cause, however, is coming at a tough time for tax-reduction initiatives; the state already is grappling with a projected $280 million shortfall for the coming year, and the loss of that revenue from food sales would cost it an additional $390 million annually.
Sunny Employment Outlook
How good is the recent employment picture in Kansas? Wyandotte County’s November rate of 5.9 percent nearly matched the nation’s 5.8 percent average—and was the highest among the state’s 105 counties. Still, it represented a strong drop of 1.4 percentage points from November 2013—a decline twice as fast as the overall rate for Kansas. Statewide, the jobless rate fell from 5.0 percent in November 2013 to 4.3 percent in 2014.
Study Urges Arts Investment
An arts-research organization from New York has submitted its recommendations for a cultural arts and entertainment master plan in Gladstone, suggesting that a more robust creative environment there could bolster economic-development efforts. Webb Management Services said that the city itself owns most of the cultural-related sites, and suggested more programs, facilities and public art, along with arts education programming and additional community events. It also called for more private-sector contributions to raising the city’s arts profile.
United Way Hits Goal
The United Way of Greater Kansas City celebrated a successful 2014 fundraising campaign, announcing that the organization had secured commitments for more than $35 million in funding. The vast majority of that—$32.3 million—came through community contributions; the annual Heartland Combined Federal Campaign yielded $2.7 million. Among the biggest corporate givers were Hallmark Cards, $2.5 million; Black & Veatch, $1.8 million; Burns & McDonnell and Sprint Corp., $1.7 million each; and KCP&L, $1 million.
Black & Veatch Growth
Black & Veatch, the region’s largest engineering firm, will move more than 700 professionals from its Telecommunications and Special Projects division into the Overland Park Trade Center building, now slated for renovation. The company says that will consolidate operations and pave the way for continued growth. The company expects to hire more than 500 additional employees by 2020.
Two Providers Go ACO
The Cotton-O’Neil Clinic and St. Francis Health, two of the largest health-care providers in Topeka, have joined the list of more than 400 accountable-care organizations nationwide under the Medicaid program, seeking ways to reduce overall health-care costs for treating those patients. Under the program, the providers will be able to keep half if the savings realized by changes to the ACO model, providing they are able to meet 33 specific performance measures. Each entered the program on Jan. 1.
‘Bye, Cassidy Turley; Hello DTZ
Cassidy Turley, the St. Louis commercial realty firm with extensive operations in Kansas City, has merged with Los Angeles-based DTZ to create what officials call a global firm that will operate under the DTZ brand. The same group of private investors that acquired DTZ in November was behind the Cassidy Turley deal, which creates the third-largest commercial real estate services firm worldwide.
News Updates from the Capital cities
Washington | Franchisees Wary of NLRB Move
In an administrative shift likely to capture the attention of franchise operations nationwide, the National Labor Relations Board has classified the McDonald’s corporation and its franchisees as joint employers, attempting to hold each liable for disciplinary measures stemming from wage protests throughout 2014. Some analysts cautioned that more represented a new administrative standard, one that could threaten business model for franchising in any sector. The NLFB alleging that McDonald’s and its franchisees were both responsible for retaliating against employees who were part of those nationwide protests in pursuit of a higher minimum wage. Under previous practice, franchisees have been categorized as independent businesses whose owners are responsible for personnel decisions.
Jefferson City | Report Tells Nixon: Consider I-70 Tolls
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission has delivered a package of potential fixes for traffic overloads on Interstate 70, including a recommendation that the state levy toll to cover $2.2 billion in costs to begin reconstruction and expansion of the state’s chief east-west highway corridor. Not yet addressed are considerations of toll rates, locations for toll plazas and other factors. However, the report indicated that a cross-state trip based on current traffic counts could yield tolls of $20-$30 for cars and $40-$90 for trucks. The commission noted that tolls on I-70 would likely pay only for that work, and that a broader funding strategy is needed for the rest of the 33,000-mile highway system in the state, plus its 10,000 bridges.
Topeka | KBA to Regain Funding Ground in ’15
Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed trimming the planned state contribution to the Kansas Bioscience Authority by $5 million, part of a broader cost-cutting strategy to deal with a projected $279 budget deficit for the coming year. The KBA, created in 2004 to promote the growth of the life-sciences sector in the state, is funded with some of the taxes paid by bioscience firms. The state’s original plan called for infusing $580 million into the authority through 2019, but budgetary pressures have led to a series of similar cuts in recent years. Despite the proposed cut, the KBA would receive $27 million in fiscal 2015, well above the combined $10.3 million from the previous two years.