Job creation in metro Kansas City sags while border war rages

07/03/2013 12:12 AM

07/03/2013 12:12 AM

Kansas 280, Missouri 177, metropolitan Kansas City .04 percent.

That was the dismal score after a couple of weeks of border-war raiding that’s become an all too common occurrence around here the past few years.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the recent scoring.

Kansas City scored first, picking up 165 jobs when A.B. May heating and cooling decided to move from Leawood. Then Kansas replied, scoring 170 jobs when General Electric shifted its air filtration division in Raytown and Louisville, Ky., to the Sprint campus in Overland Park.

One footnote: That may be the last surplus space leased at the 3.9 million-square-foot Sprint campus for the foreseeable future, according to brokers.

It was pretty much all Kansas after that: Mazuma Credit Union decided to move its headquarters and 100 jobs from Kansas City to Overland Park, and then Ascension Insurance also moved its headquarters and 10 jobs from Kansas City to Overland Park.

Kansas City scored a moral victory when CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust decided to moved its headquarters and a dozen jobs from Leawood to downtown. But let’s not forget, downtown Kansas City has lost 16,237 private jobs over the past decade, many of them to the greener pastures of Johnson County.

So what about the 0.4 percent?

Well, according to Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation and one of the area’s more high-profile critics of the border war, that’s the net gain in jobs the metropolitan area experienced between February 2012 and February 2014, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We were at the bottom of a pile of comparable metros compiled by Hall when it came to job creation.

During that period, Austin, gained 3.8 percent; Nashville, 3.3 percent; Denver, 3 percent; Charlotte, 2.5 percent; Minneapolis-St. Paul, 2.4 percent; Oklahoma City, 2 percent; Sacramento, 1.8 percent; Indianapolis, 1.4 percent; Omaha, 1.1 percent; Cincinnati, 0.9 percent; and Milwaukee, 0.6 percent.

Even St. Louis did marginally better than metro Kansas City, bumping up its employment 0.5 percent.

So once again, while economic development agencies and elected leaders on both sides of the state border continue their nearsighted pingpong game, the metro area as a whole continues to have its lunch eaten by communities with bigger vision.

Local taxpayers were the big losers, just how much we don’t know yet. That’s because the poached companies get to keep millions of dollars their employees would pay in state income taxes as a reward.

Guess who has to eventually make up that lost revenue?

Cheers for Kauffman

On a brighter note, congratulations to Julia Irene Kauffman for stepping up with her $20 million challenge grant last week to help bring the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance downtown. Her generous gift is being seen as the signal to other philanthropists the $90 million endeavor is worthy of their support.

It turns out the University of Missouri-Kansas City didn’t have a tough sell when it came to perusading Kauffman to make her donation.

“We were already along for the ride from the beginning,” Kauffman said during an interview before the big announcement at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

About 10 years ago, UMKC had quietly proposed building a facility for the conservatory on its Volker Campus. Kauffman, who has a long history supporting the school where she once studied piano, had signed on to help that plan financially, too.

“We committed money to the original project on campus, so we were already a supporter,” she said.

Dave Lady, the chief operating officer of the Murial McBrien Kauffman Foundation, said the board was ready to help the downtown venture as well.

“The project needed a spark, a catalyst, and someone to come out with a lead gift,” he said. “The board is excited about that.”

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