2013: The year in Kansas City business

12/30/2013 10:33 PM

12/30/2013 10:33 PM

The area’s economy continued to recover in 2013, as homebuilders had their best year since 2007, and manufacturing was solid. Ford added a third shift at Claycomo, and General Motors said it would spend $600 million to renovate and expand the Fairfax plant. Aviation Technical Services gave the area a big Christmas present, announcing it was coming to the KCI overhaul base and bringing 580 jobs.

SoftBank finally closed its deal to acquire most of Sprint, overcoming rival bids from Dish Network. And by the end of the year, speculation had kicked up that it also would buy T-Mobile US.

Management was steady at the top of most big-name companies, though Len Rodman said he was retiring from the top spot at Black Veatch, and Neal Patterson, while keeping his chairman and CEO titles, got a new president at Cerner.

Hallmark announced it was closing its gift wrap business, and YRC Worldwide racked up operating profits but continued to struggle with its debt load.

Here are some of the business headlines from the year.

January

Congress passes a last-minute deal to keep the U.S. from going over the fiscal cliff. Allowed to expire: a payroll tax cut and the Bush tax cut for the very highest incomes.

Prairiefire, an ambitious retail-apartments-museum development, starts construction after six years on the drawing board.

Missouri’s missing out on nearly half a billion dollars in Internet sales taxes a year by not joining Kansas and other states in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.

Garage door distributor D.H. Pace in moving its North Kansas City operation and 300 jobs to Olathe.

Garmin introduces a batch of new products at the Consumer Electronics Show, including a new Nuvi auto GPS device.

St. Luke’s $32 million Neuroscience Institute opens.

Missouri regulators OK a $64 million rate increase for Kansas City Power Light.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau releases new rules aimed at curbing the sort of risky mortgages that contributed to the financial collapse.

A new plant in Shawnee for EC Manufacturing will bring 252 jobs.

A “system glitch” affects about 400,000 trades for Bats Global Markets customers, but the exchange says any losses were minimal.

The FAA first declares the Boeing 787 safe but then grounds it after battery fires.

Flowers Foods, the No. 2 U.S. baker, is interested in buying Wonder Bread and some other brands.

The Central Exchange chooses CiCi Rojas as its new president and CEO.

Wal-Mart announces plans to hire more veterans, buy more U.S.-made goods and help more part-time workers move into full-time jobs.

The Hibachi, Brooks Brothers and Swarovski close on the Plaza, and the Bier Station opens in Waldo.

Michael Dell wants to take his struggling PC company private.

Construction gets going on the Village West Luxury Apartments, the first housing in the district near Kansas Speedway.

Shirley Helzberg, known for saving historic buildings, will tear down the Orion Pictures Building to make way for a parking garage.

Union membership for wage and salary workers fell from 11.8% in 2011 to 11.3% in 2012, new figures show. Union rolls fell about 400,000, to 1.4 million workers.

The Hospital Corp. of America didn’t spend what it promised and must pay the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City a $162 million judgment, a judge rules.

Adele Hall, noted philanthropist and wife of Hallmark Cards chairman Donald Hall, dies at age 81.

General Motors will spend $600 million to renovate and expand its Fairfax assembly plant, CEO Daniel Akerson announces on a visit to the plant.

Money-losing Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth are sold to Prime Healthcare Services, a for-profit California company.

H Block and rival TurboTax clash in court over ads questioning the qualifications of some Block tax preparers.

February

A $29 million housing project to serve the UMKC Hospital Hill campus and be finished by July 2014 is endorsed by the University of Missouri curators.

The Dow tops 14,000, a five-year high.

Standard Poor’s is sued for giving its top credit rating to complex bonds in 2007 that turned out to be junk.

The Postal Services proposes eliminating Saturday delivery.

Sprint reports that it lost customers and $1.32 billion in the last quarter of 2012.

YRC Worldwide reports an operating profit for 2012, the first time that’s happened in six years.

An FTC study says there’s a one in five chance your credit report contains errors.

The area’s big three engineering firms — Black Veatch, Burns McDonnell, and HNTB — all see big increases in sales, and more work ahead this year.

American Airlines and US Airways will merge and form the world’s biggest airline under a proposal approved by both companies’ boards. Approval also is needed from a bankruptcy judge and antitrust regulators.

Berkshire Hathaway and a Brazilian-backed equity partner are buying H.J. Heinz Co. for $23 billion in the richest food industry deal ever.

Maker’s Mark, the bourbon known for its red wax seal, backs off a plan to cut its alcohol content after drinkers protest.

An explosion and fire destroy JJ’s restaurant just west of the Country Club Plaza and leave one woman dead.

The historic Gumbel Building at Eighth and Walnut streets will be renovated into a boutique hotel.

Office Max and Office Depot announce a merger deal.

More than half of the Missouri and Kansas banks that got TARP money can’t repay it as planned.

The federal government authorizes building a utility plant to serve the planned national biodefense lab in Manhattan, Kan.

March

A $51 million hot and conference center is proposed in the fast-growing K-10 corridor in Olathe.

North Kansas City Hospital files a motion to stop the city from “packing” its board with members who presumably would support sale of the hospital. The motion eventually is denied, and the board expands.

The Ford Transit, a commercial van that will be built at Claycomo, makes its debut at an auto show.

The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant offers its employees voluntary layoffs.

Hallmark Cards says its revenue fell 2 percent to $4 billion.

The YMCA plans a $30 million center downtown but closings in Raytown, KCK and Independence.

Thanks to Sprint and other area businesses, Kansas City’s growth rate for patents has more than doubled the national pace since 2008.

A change in a form for educational tax credits trips up H Block, and thousands of refunds could be delayed as a result.

Twinkies and other Hostess snack cakes could return by summer, the unwinding company says, because it has a winning bid for the brands.

GQ names Matt Baldwin, a Leawood shop owner and blue jean baron, one of the four best new menswear designers in the country.

The National Council of La Raza will bring its 2015 national conference to Kansas City.

Anschutz Entertainment Group says the Sprint Center is no longer for sale, but CEO Tim Leiwecke is leaving.

The coming of REI and Scheels to the 135th Street corridor, already home to Backwoods, will give fitness and outdoor fans plenty of choices.

The Kansas City Board of Trade building, whose wheat trading floor is closing in June, is for sale.

Longtime radio voice Walt Bodine dies at age 92.

A $28 million development is proposed to add 222 apartments and retail sapce in downtown Gladstone.

April

Federal inspectors fail to test steaks and other mechanically tenderized beef products for a dangerous strain of E. coli, a new audit says.

More of the huge warehouses that trade increasingly requires are being built in the area to help keep it a transit hub.

A Kansas City orthopedic surgeon who invented a widely used operating table has won a $12.2 million judgment for unpaid royalties.

Len Rodman announces he will step down as CEO of Black Veatch, and company veteran Steve Edwards will replace him in that role.

The BNIM architecture firm is chosen to collaborate on designing a $100 million expansion to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

The Heartland Theatre will close after 26 years at Crown Center.

Shawnee Mission Medical Center will open its own $5.5 million cancer center.

NorthPoint Development will replace a California firm as developer of the BNSF intermodal facility in Gardner.

J.C. Penney ousts CEO Ron Johnson after his makeover plan proves disastrous.

An annual report says only Texas and California added more wind generation in 2012 than Kansas.

Dish Network makes a $25.2 billion offer for Sprint, which could disrupt SoftBank’s plans to buy most of the company.

Just 16.9 percent of the area’s jobs are in its downtown core, a new Brookings Institution report says, down from 20.5 percent in 2000.

The Lenexa City Council approves a $64 million luxury apartment complex that its Planning Commission opposed.

KCPT public television makes a move into radio, buying Warrensburg’s public station.

UMB Bank celebrates its 100th year, and the Kemper family is still charting its course.

The Missouri General Assembly approves a bill barring sale of North Kansas City Hospital without approval by the City Council, the hospital board, and the city’s voters.

The area’s housing market, which favored buyers after the recession hit, has turned in the seller’s favor.

Riverside lands an auto parts plant that’s expected to employ more than 260 people.

May

Ford will add 900 jobs and a third shift making the F-150.

HCA Midwest is buying St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs and St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City.

YRC Worldwide racks up four consecutive quarters of operating profits.

Kansas City chef Colby Garrelts wins the James Beard Award as Best Chef of the Midwest.

Cerner tops the Star 40 list of publicly traded area companies.

The Dow closes above 15,000.

Grundfos, the big pump manufacturer, is moving its North American headquarters from Olathe to suburban Chicago.

Developer Copaken Brooks wins the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award.

Five defendants in a Petro America stock fraud trial are convicted.

Sprint buys Handmark, a social media app company.

Sprint boosts its bid to $3.40 a share for the stake in Clearwire it doesn’t already own. Clearwire’s board approves.

Pork giant Premium Standard Farms agrees to sell its Smithfield Foods unit to a Chinese company.

Plans for a $13.4 million Swope Park soccer complex are approved.

June

The Chevy Malibu is getting a quick makeover in hopes of boosting sales for the 2014 model.

Development progresses near the expanded KU Hospital and University of Kansas Medical center with a $10 million apartment and retail project just east of State Line and the $40 million 39Rainbow mixed use project just west of the medical complex.

Halls will close its Country Club Plaza store and move and expand its Crown Center location.

Clearwire delays a vote on Sprint’s bid so it can consider a Dish Network counteroffer. Sprint ups its bid, and Clearwire’s board endorses it. Dish

SoftBank finally wins approval from Sprint shareholders, but only after raising its bid and seeing Dish Network abandon the chase.

Sprint appears headed for approval of its bid for the rest of Clearwire, but only after raising its bid and seeing Dish Network pull its offer.

Ford says it will revamp its best-selling F-150, as competitors GM and Chrysler already have done for their pickups.

The F-150 tops Cars.com’s rankings of most-American-made models.

Google pays more than $1 billion for mapping company Waze.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says Missouri’s automatic granting of moving incentives, contrasted with his state’s discretionary incentives, stands in the way of a truce in the border wars.

Rick Hughes will retire as head of the Kansas City Convention Visitors Association.

Northland developers propose a $200 million makeover of Metro North Shopping Center.

GE will move 170 jobs from its Raytown and Louisville locations to the Sprint campus.

The Kansas City Board of Trade closes after 157 years, its wheat exchange headed to Chicago.

The U.S. has become a net exporter of gasoline, new figures show.

Populous will design Las Vegas’ new arena.

The Kauffman Foundation gives a $20 million boost to the proposal for a UMKC arts campus downtown.

On the same day, Mazuma Credit Union says it’s moving from Kansas City to Overland Park, but CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust is leaving Leawood for Kansas City.

July

Health care accounts for 18% of the area’s post-recession growth, more than most big cities, new figures indicate.

The Tribune Co. is buying WDAF and 18 other TV stations for $2.73 billion.

Silpada Design’s founding family buys back the silver jewelry business from Avon.

The area’s fondness for fireworks makes it No. 2 in a national survey with more than $625 million in annual sales.

Connecting for Good, a year-old nonprofit dedicated to expanding Internet access and reducing the digital divide, moves into bigger quarters.

A $270 million, 514,000-square-foot Mars Chocolate factory is shaping up in Topeka for its 2014 opening.

Robert Orr, a founder of defunct Brooke Corp., pleads guilty to one criminal count in the company’s collapse. But all charges against his brother, Leland Orr, are dropped, leaving many victims unsatisfied.

Shareholders strongly approve Sprint’s offer to buy the rest of network partner Clearwire.

An apartment project gets underway, the last piece of a 1980 plan to revive the Union Hill area.

An industry group sues the Agriculture Department in an effort to stop more extensive country-of-origin meat labeling regulations.

Two ATA buses fueled with natural gas hit the streets, and eventually the whole fleet is to be converted.

A Chinese company wants to buy Smithfield Foods, the largest U.S. pork producer, causing some to raise safety and security questions.

KCP wants to cut back on an incentive program that has aided solar power installations.

AT will buy Leap Wireless.

Downtown now draws an estimated 13.4 million people a year, a new study estimates, versus 2.5 million in 2002.

Twinkies and other Hostess snacks are back on shelves, and Kansas City played its part. Headquarters for the revived brand have moved here from Texas, and Bernstein-Rein provided the ad campaign.

The Marine Corps is keeping offices in Kansas City, preserving more than 400 jobs for the next 30 years.

Hallmark will cut jobs in Canada and outsource some headquarters jobs.

Briarcliff Development plans to start construction soon on a 340-unit apartment complex.

Sprint tightens its terms for roaming data hogs.

Kanrocksas co-founder William Brandmeyer is sued by Lawrence booking agency and promoter Mammoth Inc. over the cancellation of the music festival.

Fast-food workers begin a series of strikes for a living wage.

Mayor Sly James, in office more than two years, assesses the city’s development victories and remaining challenges.

August

Cerner outlines its plan to redevelop the Bannister Mall site as an office park that eventually could employ 15,000 workers. The $4.1 billion, 251-acre project would be the area’s largest office complex, topping the Sprint campus.

Small breweries continue to spring up in the U.S., with at least four in the area planning to open.

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos will pay $250 million to buy the Washington Post.

Bats Global Markets and the Nasdaq both suffer trading disruptions.

The million-plus-member United Food and Commercial Workers union is rejoining the AFL-CIO.

Kansas City is experiencing its biggest apartment construction boom since 2001, but its condo market is struggling.

Wish-Bone salad dressings, which originated in Kansas City, are sold by Unilever.

The New York Stock Exchange is bought by ICE from Atlanta.

Jerry Reece steps down as CEO of real estate mainstay Reece Nichols.

Lexmark will buy the German firm Saperion and merge its operation into Perceptive Software in Lenexa.

Lenexa approves a hotel and conference center in its new City Center.

A 257-room hotel in the Crossroads is proposed, and the Tennessee developers won’t seek tax incentives.

Sprint will cut 800 jobs, saying it doesn’t need as much customer service support as it phases out Nextel operations.

The city approves a contract to have T. Boone Pickens’ Clean Energy company build a public station for fueling natural-gas-powered vehicles.

AMC says it will go public in hopes of raising $400 million.

A plan for the tallest apartment tower ever built from scratch downtown gets even taller, adding two stories and 61 apartments.

Spin Neapolitan Pizza signs a second franchising agreement, adding nothern California to its expansion plans.

Mayor Sly James criticizes the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority for not joining other development agencies in his plan to revamp development agencies.

Pinnacle Entertainment completes its acquisition of Ameristar Casinos, including its market-leading Kansas City property.

The Sierra Club says KCP is breaking its agreement for conservation, renewable energy and other “green” measures.

UMKC opens its Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

September

The price of ethanol credits has soared, putting pressure on the government to ease its rising mandates for use of the alternative fuel.

Cerner names a new president, Zane Burke. Neal Patterson remains chairman and CEO.

Alliant Techsystems, best known for defense work such as running the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, buys Bushnell Group Holdings of Overland Park, maker of binoculars and sports shooting equipment, for nearly $1 billion.

Ford says its recently added third shift at Claycomo is already running flat-out to keep up with demand for the F-150 pickup.

The area’s first Fresh Market grocery opens.

The income gap widened, with the top 1% taking in more than 19% of income, the most since 1927.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and Coventry say they will offer policies on the national health exchange.

Hallmark says its new type of store, heavy on personalized items and called HMK, will open on the Plaza next month.

A four-story hotel is planned just north of the Plaza, along 45th Street between Belleview and Madison avenues.

The area economy grew 2.5% last year, in line with the country, a new report says, and exports played a substantial part.

A $71 million proposal to remake the old Commerce Tower as a “vertical community” with retail and housing gets approval for tax breaks.

T-Mobile and Sprint officials say a merger of the companies would make a stronger competitor for AT and Verizon Wireless, renewing speculation that a deal is in the works.

REI opens in the Prairiefire development along 135th Street.

Cerner announces a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, a nonprofit health system that operates 22 hospitals and 185 clinics.

October

Black Veatch and Brightergy form an alliance to develop and build solar-energy projects in this area and eventually in other parts of the country.

Ford marks the 100th anniversary of its assembly line.

Regional economist Frank Lenk, after being overly optimistic for three years, forecasts that the sluggish national economy also will hold back hiring in Kansas City the next two years.

Janet Yellen is chosen to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Budget expert Alice Rivlin wins the Truman Medal for Economic Policy — and chews out Congress for shutting down the government.

Boulevard Brewing is being sold to a Belgian brewer, Duvel Moortgat.

Spin Neapolitan Pizza gets a new partner, corporate heavy hitter Michael Kramer, who has worked with Spin’s founders.

United Airlines is changing location at KCI, which soon will have just two of its three terminals open.

Interim leader Thomas Sack is chosen as permanent chief executive of MRIGlobal.

Logistics Park Kansas City, the massive BNSF multimodal transit hub in Edgerton, officially opens.

November

Roshann Parris, president and chief executive of Parris Communications, succeeds this year’s chairman, Polsinelli lawyer Russ Welsh, at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Food stamp benefits drop for millions of Americans, including nearly 1 million in Missouri and Kansas.

Hallmark says it will end its party war business because of flagging revenue, and streamline its core greeting-card business to get cards on store shelves faster. Together, the changes will eliminate up to 250 jobs.

The Mutual Fund Store sues one of its franchise operators it described as a “prolific gambler” behind on paying bills.

Harley-Davidson puts the production of two new bike models at its Kansas City plant.

The Machinists win a vote to unionize 1,700 workers at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

Kansas City will play host to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in 2018.

Twitter goes public, and its shares rise more than 70% on their first day.

A feud over control of MGP Ingredients, long a fixture in Atchison, ends with a decision to stick with the company’s current course and not seek a sale.

Amazon will add Sunday delivery and use Postal Service employees to do it.

Sprint passes on a spectrum auction it was expected to win, saying it will save its money for later.

The EPA urges an easing of the biofuel mandate, bad news for ethanol producers.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon calls for an end to the business-poaching border war.

VanTrust Real Estate will revive the troubled East Village project.

Phil Kirk, retired chairman of DST Realty, is the KC Chamber’s Kansas Citian of the Year.

Pope Francis criticizes trickle-down economics, the “tyranny” of completely unfettered markets and the “idolatry of money.”

The government will sell what’s left of the stake in GM it acquired when the automaker was bailed out.

Burns McDonnell chooses two schools’ proposals for exhibits to build at Science City.

VML buys digital agency Biggs|Gilmore of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Chicago.

The Roasterie turns 20 and keeps finding ways to help and collaborate with other area start-ups.

December

Aircraft maintenance company Aviation Technical Services is coming to the KCI overhaul base and bringing 580 jobs.

AMC goes public, raising $331.6 million.

Speculation rises again that Sprint’s owner, SoftBank, will try to acquire T-Mobile US, and Sprint’s stock rises.

One of Kansas City’s highest-profile businesswomen, v. Cheryl Womack, shielded millions in income from taxes and then lied about it to federal investigators, a grand jury charges.

J.E. Dunn Construction has a new CEO, Gordon Lansford III, a first outside the Dunn family.

Progress on building the Mission Gateway project has slowed while the developer expands the retail portion, awaits suitable construction bids and considers seeking additional financial help from the city.

The Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation gives $12 million, the single largest donation ever received by St. Luke’s Hospital.

The federal government has picked Two Pershing Square, an office building near Union Station, to be the new home of 900 employees currently at the Bannister Federal Complex.

The push is on to convince 26,000 Teamsters to accept a decade of cut wages and reduced benefits from YRC Worldwide Inc., the struggling trucking giant based in Overland Park.

Target’s computer system is hacked, and 40 million shipper’s credit and debit card data are stolen.

Cessna’s parent company is set to buy Beechcraft.

Compiled by Greg Hack

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