Business

2014: A look back at the year in Kansas City business

Billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Corp., chose Marcelo Claure to be Sprint’s new CEO.
Billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Corp., chose Marcelo Claure to be Sprint’s new CEO. Bloomberg

It was a busy year for some of Kansas City’s big names. Ford’s Claycomo plant took part in the U.S. auto industry’s resurgence, adding workers and launching the Transit van. Cerner continued its record run of quarterly profits, revenue and new business bookings, while pushing ahead on plans for its giant Trails Campus in south Kansas City. And Sprint pursued a merger with T-Mobile US before giving up in the face of likely opposition from regulators. The company then changed CEOs, with chairman Masayoshi Son bringing on Marcelo Claure to cut staff and costs, and put a heavy emphasis on restoring Sprint’s customer base.

Shoppers also had something to celebrate: Swedish furnishings giant Ikea opened its store in Merriam.

January

Onelife Fitness announces a late-summer opening for a full-service fitness center above Cosentino’s Downtown Market at 13th and Main.

The Kansas City Board of Trade building is sold to Mariner Real Estate Management of Leawood.

R. Crosby Kemper, maverick Kansas City civic and arts booster and head of the UMB banking family, dies at age 86.

Taking advantage of low-interest borrowing and the recovering auto market, several area dealers have spent millions rebuilding or remodeling their dealerships.

KCP&L says it will expand its energy-efficiency programs and nearly double its wind-generating capacity.

The Hollywood Casino overlooking Kansas Speedway gets more time to meet its pledge to build a hotel on the site.

The Teamsters, asked for the fourth time in five years to make concessions, vote down wage and other cuts that YRC Worldwide says it needs to stay in business. But a revised proposal is worked out and passed later in the month.

Macy’s says it will close its store in Metcalf South Shopping Center as part of a corporate overhaul.

A local expert on drug regulation, Cynthia Kirk, wins a nearly $4 million award for pointing out possible marketing violations by a California pharmaceutical company.

Bob Bernstein, who founded Beauty Brands in 1995, sells his controlling interest to a California private equity firm.

The Sprint Center is eighth in national rankings of the busiest arenas.

H&R Block and Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, square off in an advertising war for taxpayers’ business.

A $3 million apartment building is planned at 37th Street and Gillham Road.

Overland Park’s Planning Commission endorses City Place, a blend of apartments, offices and retail space.

Grantham University is moving its offices and 340 jobs from Zona Rosa to Lenexa.

Ford is training 1,000 added workers at Claycomo as it prepares to make the Transit van.

Sprint announces it will cut hundreds of workers in the first half of the year, many at call centers, and close some stores.

Cerner officially launches its $4.3 billion Three Trails office campus.

Apartment development is booming in the area, with 2013’s final tally at 2,900 units built, up 62% from the previous year, and 7,000 more units expected over the next couple of years.

Final figures for 2013 show the Hollywood Casino growing and the overall Kansas’ gambling market faring well, while Missouri casinos, including the four in the Kansas City area, keep slipping.

The former Benchmark furniture complex in Olathe, vacant eight years, is sold to NorthPoint Development.

February

Aviation Technical Services signs off on its lease for a 600-employee aircraft maintenance center at KCI’s Super Hangar.

The deal for HCA Midwest Health System to buy St. Joseph and St. Mary’s medical centers falls through after failing to get timely FTC approval.

Mariner Kemper, CEO of UMB Financial Corp., has inherited voting control over 3.4 million UMB shares held by his later father.

Missouri, Kansas and other Midwest states take action aimed at easing propane price spikes costing many rural households hundreds of dollars this winter.

Cerner’s fourth-quarter earnings report confirms 2013 bookings hit a record $3.77 buillion.

Burns & McDonnell, riding the energy booms, says it broke the $2 billilon sales marker last year and expects to add 600 jobs this year.

Missouri Gas Energy is faulted by regulators in last year’s fatal blast at JJ’s restaurant.

Kaplan’s Fabrics, which opened in 1948, is closing on the Country Club Plaza.

A divided Tax Increment Financing Commission puts off a tax-break recommendation that would help the Crossroads Academy downtown pursue a $7 million expansion plan.

Sprint’s fourth-quarter earnings show “real progress” in adding customers, cutting costs and upgrading its network, analysts say. But Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank conglomerate owns most of Sprint, says it still needs “a change in mindset.”

360 Architecture lands the design contract for the $436.8 million hockey arena planned in Edmonton, Alberta.

The leaders of construction giant JE Dunn say providing insurance coverage from some birth control methods violates their Roman Catholic faith.

DST Systems’ largest shareholder says there have been “material deficiencies” and “strategic missteps” is how the company is governed, but company leaders say the changes the shareholder wants would hurt the company and other shareholders.

ExpressJet Airlines has opened a crew base at KCI that will be the hub for 265 airline employees.

The right offer, say around $1 billion, could buy Russell Stover and Whitman’s candies, their Kansas City owners say.

A 90-acre office project, City Place, including some apartments and retail, is in the works southwest of U.S. 69 and College Boulevard.

John W. Bluford III says he will retire in July at CEO of Truman Medical Centers.

Burns & McDonnell wants to build a $130 million office addition next to its headquarters on Ward Parkway.

The $6 million Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Center opens at Truman Medical Center.

The YMCA unveils how a new facility would look at 10th Street and Grand Boulevard as part of its efforts to raise money for the plan.

March

Lane4 and the Kroenke Group buy Metcalf South and the K-Mart to the north and could tear down the shopping center and replace it with a mixed-use project.

The Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain will close its restaurant on the Plaza.

Rockhurst University breaks ground on a $25 million high-tech classroom.

Mission Woods backs off a condemnation and demolition of an office building at 1968 Shawnee Mission Parkway and will give its owner more time for a renovation.

Westport Ale House opens in the former Streetside Records building on Broadway.

A payoff tied to Sprint’s acquisition by SoftBank boosts CEO Dan Hesse’s 2013 compensation to $49 million, the most ever reported for an area publicly traded company.

A Star review of public records in four area cities finds that many companies don’t get the proper permits to install replacement furnaces, meaning the cities don’t know to perform follow-up safety inspections of the work.

EyeVerify, a local startup whose product lets people use eye recognition on their smartphones instead of passwords, is winning awards and other recognition.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will keeps its operations and jobs in the area — the last agency that will be moving as the Bannister Federal Complex winds down. Area officials say that caps successful efforts to keep all the agencies and jobs that had to relocate.

Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank Corp. owns most of Sprint, takes his case for acquiring T-Mobile to Washington, where regulators have shown no inclination to let the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless providers merge.

A 12-story, $78 million office tower is proposed to go up just north of the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist, on the Country Club Plaza.

Hallmark Cards says its revenue last year fell 2%, to $3.9 billion, though Crayola products did well.

Cordish says it will break ground on a 25-story apartment project at 13th and Walnut in April and eventually wants to add three similar towers in the Power & Light District.

Sprint’s accelerator program picks 10 budding businesses for help with their mobile medical technology ideas.

James E. Stowers Jr., the man behind American Century Investments and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research dies at age 90.

The Tax Increment Finance Commission approves a Cerner Corp. request for an additional $110 million in subsidies for its Three Trails office project.

After 33 years on the Country Club Plaza, the N Valentino clothing store is closing.

Area engineering mainstay HNTB turns 100, and it will be Black & Veatch’s turn next year. (And Burns & McDonnell marked a century in business back in 1998.)

Missouri draws Cbiz and Mayer Hoffman McCann to the Plaza from Leawood.

Blunt speaking Bill O’Brien leaves his post at Bats Global Markets Inc. after less than a year.

The exterior forms and surfaces for the third largest aquarium in the world, Brazil’s Aquario Ceara, are taking shape in Kansas City at A. Zahner Co.

Kansas City’s Full Employment Council is one of three agencies nationally getting “coding bootcamp” funds from the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Prime Healthcare Services is acquiring St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs from Carondelet Health.

April

NorthPoint Development is buying the Kansas City Power & Light Building from its New York owner and then will spend $60 million to redevelop it into luxury apartments.

Boulevard’s new Belgian owner says the brewery’s expansion prospects are even better than it first thought, such that in five years the beer could be sold in Europe and all 50 states.

MRIGlobal has had to cut expenses in the face of lower revenue and tough competition for contracts, the Moody’s Investors Service credit rating agency notes.

McDonald’s picks Service Management Group of Kansas City to collect and analyze feedback from its customers.

Law firm Spencer Fane signs a new 12-year lease at the Commerce Bank building downtown, where it was an original tenant in 1985.

Smith Electric Vehicles discloses that it suspended production at the end of 2013 because of a lack of cash.

Bats Global Markets of Lenexa pushes back against “Liar’s Poker” author Michael Lewis, whose latest book says the stock market is rigged, in part by high-frequency trading.

Kansas City’s government-sponsored film office is being revived after lapsing more than a decade ago.

The new owners of Metcalf South schedule two public meetings to get people’s ideas on what to do with the shopping center. 

An Indianapolis developer is planning to build three downtown apartment projects totaling 661 units in the Crossroads and Quality Hill areas.

A swine virus that kills piglets spreads to 27 states, including Missouri and Kansas.

Kansas moves up to No. 8 on the wind energy trade association’s annual list for the most installed wind energy capacity, and No. 6 for the amount actually generated the past year.

Metro North Shopping Center closes, except for an attached Macy’s and free-standing restaurants. The owner says closing will help move redevelopment plans forward.

LightEdge Solutions opens a $60 million, 60,000-square-foot, 12-employee data center at the Subtropolis underground business park operated by Hunt Midwest.

NorthPoint Development is planning two apartment projects totaling more than 600 units on opposite sides of the metro area, one in Lee’s Summit, the other in Village West in western Wyandotte County.

Wal-Mart, in a venture with Euronet Worldwide Inc. of Leawood, will start its own service to let people send money between any of 4,000 U.S. Wal-Mart stores.

Low-cost Spirit Airlines is adding service at KCI, with flights to and from Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas and Houston.

Populous, Kansas City’s largest sports architecture firm, is moving from its custom-built

offices in the River Market to a new home in the Board of Trade building near the Country

Club Plaza.

Riverside lands another auto parts plant, Martinrea International of Canada’s first in Missouri, which will create up to 290 jobs.

The Kansas City Council approves condemning a billboard at 20th and Main streets, a big step needed for a developer to move forward with a planned $16 million hotel project in the Crossroads Arts District.

St. Luke’s Hospital agrees to accept health insurance in auto accident cases instead of going after possibly higher payments from auto insurance settlements intended for the victims. And it will help 930 former patients whose health insurance wasn’t accepted.

May

The first Transit commercial van rolls off the assembly line at Ford’s Claycomo plant.

Hospital Corp. of America must pay an additional $77 million, on top of an earlier $162 million judgment, related to its purchase of former Health Midwest hospitals in the area.

The historic Lyric Theatre and an East Village site are added to 10th and Grand as possible sites for a downtown YMCA.

Kansas liquor laws are amended to allow the transport and sharing of home brewed beer.

The Kansas City housing market has heated up, so the advantage has shifted from buyers to sellers.

Waddell & Reed, helped by a bull market and its stable of solid mutual funds, tops the Star 40 rankings of the region’s publicly traded companies.

A KCI task force recommends building a new single-terminal airport but faces an uphill battle to persuade the public.

Three Dog Bakery, about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, is acquired by a group of mostly local investors.

Aviation Technical Services lands its first contract at its KCI base, to revamp jets for a Russian airline.

Unilever announces a $99 million investment in its Wish-Bone and Hellmann’s salad dressing plant in Independence, transforming the 50-year-old factory to dry-mix products.

Ride-sharing company Uber says it’s coming to town, joining Lyft, but the Kansas City Council says Lyft is operating illegally, and any such service must meet taxi and livery regulations.

Smith Electric gets $2 million from a Chinese company and says it will reopen its electric-truck plant.

Tom McDonnell will step down as head of the $2 billion Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation after 18 months on the job.

Burns & McDonnell is on track to starts its nearly $140 million headquarters expansion at 9400 Wornall Road after winning Kansas City Council approval.

Alphapointe, which provides rehabilitation and jobs for people with vision loss, is merging with New York City Industries, the largest New York employer of visually impaired people.

Alumna Margaret Silva donates the Grand Arts building to the Kansas City Art Institute, which wants to use it for a new graduate program.

Reports from the Kauffman Foundation and the Brookings Institution say business startups in the U.S. have hit a 30-year low point.

Border Brewing Co. says it will open in the fall in space across from Grinders in the Crossroads.

Grupo Antolin, a Spanish company that makes auto parts, is opening its $18 million Kansas City plant that will employ 120 people.

Kansas City, along with Dallas, Denver and Cleveland, is in the final four cities competing for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Ronnie Burt is coming from Washington to lead the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, and he wants the city to compete against bigger cities, not smaller ones.

Many drive-ins are dying instead of converting to digital projection, but the area’s I-70 and Twin drive-ins have come up with the money to make the switch.

Kansas City Power & Light’s plans to help all of its customers save energy in Missouri and reduce carbon emissions are back on track, reversing a 2012 decision to restrict conservation incentives to areas outside Kansas City proper.

Cerner Corp. wants to expand and revamp its planned Three Trails office project in south Kansas City to add buildings and disperse them throughout the giant campus, rather than clustering them as first envisioned.

Occidental Management of Wichita buys the massive Overland Park International Trade Center for about $20 million with plans to turn it into office space.

Bishop-McCann, a Kansas City meetings, events and incentive travel management company, is the 2014 Small Business of the Year.

June

John Knox Village plans to overhaul its senior community with $90 million in improvements through 2017.

Sprint reportedly has worked out many of the terms for a $32 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile US.

The area is down to one company, Seaboard Corp., on the Fortune 500 list of U.S. public companies, as YRC Worldwide slips off the list and Sprint is taken over by SoftBank.

Highwoods Properties says the Halls Plaza building, closing Aug. 3, will reopen next fall with six to eight upscale retailers and one or two restaurants.

Kansas City’s riverfront could get its first private project, a $65 million apartment development proposed by Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis.

Ikea, preparing for opening in Merriam after Labor Day, has completed its geothermal heating and cooling system for the store.

A $2 million grant from the Sunderland Foundation will help the University of Kansas Hospital build an expansion.

The Kansas City area has fallen behind in growth and competitiveness compared with similar cities and needs concerted focus to improve, a Brookings Institution report concludes.

Willie Granderson, after 50 years tending bar, is hanging up his shot glass and shaker at the American Restaurant.

Quest Diagnostics is opening a customer service center in Lenexa and will hire up to 500 employees.

Work begins on Stockyards Place, the first new residential development in the West Bottoms in years.

SkillsUSA holds its national contest in Kansas City, capping a 21-year run here before shifting to Louisville next year.

After 58 years, Lipari Brothers Thriftway at 800 Kansas Ave. in Kansas City, Kan., is closing.

Seventeen area business leaders again urge the governors of Missouri and Kansas to help end the Border War shuffling jobs back and forth across the state line.

The GOP drops Kansas City and Denver from the field for its 2016 national convention, and eventually will choose Cleveland over Dallas.

Work starts on a $29 million Hospital Hill Outpateint Center, the first new freestanding building on Hospital Hill since 1998.

Garmin launches Viago, an app that lets Apple and Android smartphone users customize GPS features.

The city, Kansas City Power & Light and the Greater Knasas City Chamber of Commerce team up for an initiative to cut electricity use in the city by 5% by 2030.

July

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signs a bill aimed at ending the border war for company offices and their jobs, but it requires a similar move by Kansas, which Gov. Sam Brownback has signaled is unlikely.

Black & Veatch wins a big share of a $735 million contract to convert a liquefied natural gas tanker.

Emporia’s Hostess Brands plant has added $30 million in improvements, making it home to the Twinkie maker’s flagship snack cake bakery.

Kansas City Southern wants to develop a terminal in Port Arthur, Texas, to handle more of its crude oil cargo.

Lifetouch Inc. says it will end its Kansas City yearbook publishing operations this year and cut about 75 of its plant’s 100 jobs.

Kidsport GPS, an area startup, develops a wearable, waterproof tracker band especially for use by autistic children.

A resurgence in Westport is being fueled by a dozen locally owned restaurants and bars that have opened in the past few months or will soon.

Two Kansas City families, the greeting card Halls and box-of-chocolates Wards, make Forbes’ list of wealthiest American families.

Russell Stover Inc., which has the Stover and Whitman’s brands, is sold to Lindt & Sprungli of Switzerland.

August

T-Mobile draws a $15 billion bid from an upstart French telecom company, complicating Sprint’s takeover aspirations.

Time Warner Cable and then Comcast announce they are boosting Internet speeds for Kansas City area customers.

First-half numbers show that the Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kan., keeps growing, but its boost to the overall area market has faded. The area’s overall revenue has shrunk below what the four Missouri area casinos had at their peak four years ago.

Facing certain regulatory hurdles, Sprint gives up on its pursuit of T-Mobile US and will replace CEO Dan Hesse with Brightstar founder Marcelo Claure.

Cerner Corp. intends to acquire Siemens Health Services in a $1.3 billion deal that will increase Cerner’s revenue and employment by a third.

Crossroads mainstay Grinders is opening another location, in Lenexa at the former Kieltyka’s Stonewall Inn.

Banker and civic leader William C. Nelson dies at age 77.

Betsey Solberg, founder of the Kansas City office of FleishmanHillard, is chosen for this year’s Athena International award for leadership and community service.

Susan Elise Prophet pleads guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identify theft in embezzlements of more than $731,000 total from Dorfman Plumbing Supply and North Point Skilled Nursing.

Missouri’s regulatory staff recommends against a ban on letting payday lenders accept utility bill payments.

Sprint drops its Framily promotion and launches new pricing plans offering double the data that rival carriers offer.

MRIGlobal, the former Midwest Research Institute, says a drop in federal funding has forced it to sharpen its efforts to compete for contracts.

The global architecture and engineering firm HOK buys Kansas City’s 360 Architecture.

St. Joseph’s East Hills Shopping Center gets national attention — for a back-to-school commercial that, like a bad highway wreck, people can’t keep from looking at.

Two area startups score big capital infusions: $40 million for crop optimizer FarmLink and $6 million to EyeVerify.

The $687 million Natonal Security Campus housing the Honeywell-operated plant is dedicated by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que says by the end of the year it will change its name to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.

Oxford on the Blue, a 350-acre biotech office park that would be bigger than the Sprint campus or Corporate Woods, is moving forward with rezoning requests after a decade in planning.

Trash collection mogul Ronald D. Deffenbaugh Sr. dies at age 73.

September

A variety of area manufacturers step up their training efforts to fill skilled jobs as they recover from the recession.

The Kansas City Power & Light building, heading toward renovation into apartments, bids farewell to its last tenant. BNIM architects will be leaving its home the past 14 years and moving to the old TWA Building, which mainly houses the Barkley ad agency.

YRC Worldwide and others truckers face a driver shortage and are trying higher pay and other perks to fill vacancies.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure outlines a continuing shakeup for his company, including rebuilding the top management team, cutting spending and jobs, and shifting strategy for boosting network speeds.

Ikea opens its 359,000-square-foot Merriam store to great fanfare.

The Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association becomes Visit KC and plans to move from City Center Square to 1321 Baltimore Ave. to increase its visibility.

The new Halls on Grand reopens in its revamped Crown Center space.

Niall, a small area startup, is bringing back U.S. watchmaking, albeit on a small scale, with its high-end time pieces.

Truman Medical Center agrees to stop a billing practice that declines an auto accidents patient’s health insurance in hopes of a larger payment from car insurance.

UMKC chooses a Helix/HGA team’s design for a proposed downtown arts campus.

The FTC shuts down Butterfly Labs of Leawood, saying it has taken 20,000 customers for as much as $40 million by failing to deliver bitcoin-generating computers in a timely manner.

Ground is broken for the $350 million mixed-use CityPlace project in Overland Park.

Kansas City’s job outlook is improving, and close to 20,000 jobs could be added next year, MARC economic Frank Lenk says in his annual forecast.

Ford has hired 1,200 new workers and will start a second shift at its Claycomo assembly plant to support strong orders for its Transit van.

A longtime family furniture business, Furniture Mall of Kansas, is planning to resurrect the former Benchmark Home Funsihings building in Olathe.

Onelife Fitness opens its $5 million fitness center downtown above Cosentino’s Market Downtown.

October

Berkshire Hathaway is acquiring Van Tuyl Group, the auto dealership empire started in 1955 by Cecil Van Tuyl.

Bitcoin company Butterfly Labs can resume some of its business under a new federal order.

$3 gasoline is back in the area and might stay awhile, analysts say.

A subsidiary of Waste Management, based in Houston, wants to buy the outstanding stock of area trash operator Deffenbaugh Disposal Inc.

The area’s number of female corporate directors remains low at 12.2%, the Central Exchange’s annual survey indicates, but the rate is up from a year ago.

The Dickinson movie chain is acquired by another local company, B&B Theatres, giving the combined companies 408 screens at 50 locations.

Sprint institutes incentives for top executive and 16,000 employees based in part on winning subscribers and getting them to recommend Sprint to others.

Sprint cuts 452 headquarters jobs, bringing its local cuts to 900 this year.

Record harvests of corn and soybeans are rolling in, but the Midwest farm economy actually might suffer as prices drop.

Marie Brooner, a 52-year-old certified pubic accountant, pleads guilty to a $3 million fraud scene that forces Galvmet Inc. out of business.

Fire damages the historic Hotel Savoy, home to the city’s oldest restaurant, the Savoy Grill.

Real estate giant Phil Kirk, the retired chairman of DST Realty, dies at age 76.

Cerner’s bookings for new business hit a third-quarter record of $1.1 billion, and quarterly revenue and profits are up substantially, too.

A slow summer for movies hurts AMC Entertainment’s quarterly earnings.

Sales of fitness equipment help Garmin sharply boost its quarterly revenue despite the continued slippage of its original mainstay GPS devices for autos.

KCP&L seeks a nearly 16% rate increase from Missouri for its Kansas City customers.

November

Boulevard Brewing celebrates 25 years in business.

Sprint starts rebuilding its executive team, adding network expert Junichi Miyakawa from SoftBank.

The sale of St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s medical centers has left the fate of their $20 million charitable foundations in limbo.

Sprint, aiming to save $1.5 billion a year, says it will lay off 2,000 more employees. Its stock dives 16.5% the next day. A few days later, Sprint clarifies that those will be in addition to 1,700 layoffs this fall, for a total around 11% of its workforce.

An Omaha company buys Elecsys Corp. of Olathe for $70.5 million.

CEO Neal Patterson, addressing the annual Cerner Health Conference, makes a plea to advance health care by increased sharing of data across platforms and systems.

The Plaza Lights have been gradually shifting to LED lights, and 85% will be the more efficient variety this year.

Valet parking at KCI is off to a good start, serving 200 people on an average day and easing some parking congestion at Terminal B.

FishNet Security, started in 1996 in Blue Springs, will merge next year with a similar Denver company, Accuvant.

A scaled-down Mission Gateway project is presented, consisting of a Wal-Mart and garden center, a 150-room hotel and a small retail strip.

Missouri’s oil production, though just a drop in the nation’s barrel, has doubled in recent years.

More retailers move up their holiday discounts to try to capture shoppers’ money before Black Friday, and Zona Rosa names its early events Orange Wednesday.

Google Fiber, limited to area residences so far, will offer business service in a handful of neighborhoods.

A new business-civic group, KC Rising, is formed to counter the region’s flagging economic growth rate.

Cerner breaks ground for its now $4.45 billion project in south Kansas City, now called the Trails Campus.

The Kansas City Area Development Council celebrates its best job recruiting year — 3,286 jobs representing an annual payroll of $150 million.

The Star launches an interactive website detailing dozens of downtown development projects and their progress.

UMKC will offer a one-year, fast-track MBA degree.

Minneapolis tech company the Nerdery is expanding its Kansas City office and will add 100 jobs in the next five years.

The Marriott near the Plaza is sold for $57 million to a New York real estate investment firm.

Local 41 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters elects Ralph Stubbs as president over Vic Terranella, who held the post six years.

New KC Chamber chairman Terry Dunn outlines his goals for next year.

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton is the KC Chamber’s Kansas Citian of the Year.

December

Bats Global Markets agrees to a $12 million fine for actions by Direct Edge, a rival it merged with.

The Logistics Park Kansas City distribution and warehouse development in Edgerton

attracts two new tenants — Flexsteel Industries of Dubuque, Iowa, and Kubota Tractor Corp. of Torrance, Calif. — that plan to hire more than 200 employees altogether.

Arrow Fabricare Services on Troost, a family business that gets leather repair and cleaning work from across the country, celebrates its centennial.

Marketing agency VML, known for global growth and use of new media, promotes its chief business officer, Eric Campbell, to be its president. Jon Cook, who will remain VML’s global chief executive, has also been president since 2007.

Sprint Center’s management agreement with Kansas City added $927,144 to city coffers this year, bringing to nearly $10 million the entertainment and sports venue has contributed in

profit-sharing to the city since 2008.

AMC Theatres expands its monthly movie pass program to include a deluxe subscription good for 3D and Imax shows, too.

Freightquote, the 1,000-employee freight broker based in Kansas City, is being acquired by C.H. Robinson Worldwide of Minneapolis for $365 million.

Sprint offers to cut in the half the wireless bills of AT&T and Verizon customers who jump to Sprint.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has a big Christmas card list — of 750,000 — and a card specially designed for Sprint by Hallmark.

Wage protests resurface in Kansas City and other cities, pushing for a national $15 minimum.

MRIGlobal wins a $3 million contract from the National Cancer Institute to produce a new HPV vaccine.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, wanting to assert its authority in the telecommunications sector, sues Sprint alleging it collected tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized “cramming” charges on customers’ bills.

The Golden Ox, for decades a fixture in the West Bottoms, closes.

Greg Hack, ghack@kcstar.com

The top national stories: Stocks rise; unemployment drops

Rising stocks and falling energy prices and unemployment were the good news stories of 2014 on the national business scene. But U.S. wages remained flat as the 30-years-plus retreat of the U.S. middle class continued, and moderate U.S. GDP growth looked good in comparison with stagnation in Europe. Some of the top national and international business stories:

The stock market: International concerns and falling energy stocks at times weighed on the market, which dipped in February, August and especially October. Concerns about when the Fed would start raising its near-zero interest rate also surfaced. But those low interest rates, employment gains and solid corporate profits have still added up to a solid year, with the Dow up 8.34 percent and the S&P 500 up 12.45 percent.

Unemployment: The jobless rate kept dropping, and the 5.8 percent rate in October and November was down 1.2 percentage points from a year ago. The number of unemployed was down by 1.7 million after the economy added 324,000 jobs in November, the 50th straight month of job gains.

But the long-term unemployed still remained 30 percent of those out of work, and the new jobs’ wages tended to lag those of the jobs lost in the recession. Americans’ average real household income stood at $52,100, markedly down from $56,900 in 1999.

Economic growth: The U.S. economy, stalled by brutal winter weather, shrank 2.9 percent in the first quarter but rebounded with annualized growth of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 3.9 percent in the third. Elsewhere, China’s growth was slowing; the European Union was trying to prevent deflation; and Japan’s recovery suffered a setback in the face of a sales tax increase.

Energy prices: World oil prices plummeted by half in six months, helping consumers as they rippled through to the gasoline pump, where the national average price dipped below $2.40, and gas below $2 could be found in some parts of the country. Increased U.S. production, dampened world demand and no plans to cut production by Saudi Arabia fed speculation that pushed oil futures below $60 a barrel last week. Besides helping consumers, the drop left Russian leader Vladimir Putin in bad shape as Russia’s oil revenue shrank and international sanctions for his actions in Crimea and Ukraine took their toll.

Auto recalls and rebound: GM scrambled all year to try to repair millions of older models with faulty ignition switches, and took a $2.5 billion charge against earnings in the first half. It faces several lawsuits and has agreed to pay compensation for more than 40 related deaths so far.

Following that, problems with airbags made by the Japanese company Takata have caused several automakers, under pressure from regulators, to expand recalls across the U.S.

Despite all that, the industry is headed toward annual sales of more than 16 million new vehicles, a mark it hasn’t seen since 2007. GM reported profits of $1.4 billion last quarter, and Ford made $835 million.

The wealth gap: Various studies showed the Great Recession made it much worse, and it persists post-recession. Protests for a higher minimum continued, focusing on the fast food industry and Wal-Mart. Some states are raising their minimums, whether through new legislation or automatic inflation clauses, but with the GOP in control of Congress, no increase in the national minimum is likely.

Greg Hack, ghack@kcstar.com

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