Business

Kansas continues trying to bring Missouri businesses across state line

The Kansas Department of Commerce offered its help to Kansas City’s Downtown Council Community Improvement District, but the only way it could help would be if a business were looking to expand or move to Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Commerce offered its help to Kansas City’s Downtown Council Community Improvement District, but the only way it could help would be if a business were looking to expand or move to Kansas. skeyser@kcstar.com

On Aug. 10, the Kansas Commerce Department sent a letter addressed to the Downtown Council Community Improvement District — in Kansas City, Mo. — encouraging it to call if there was anything the agency could do to help.

There’s nothing the Kansas Commerce Department can do to help organizations in Missouri outside of providing assistance — mostly in the form of tax incentives — for a business looking to expand or relocate into Kansas.

Missouri businesses do move to Kansas from time to time with help from the Kansas Commerce Department; its letter referenced AMC Entertainment, which moved from downtown Kansas City to Leawood in 2013.

Still, it’s difficult to imagine how or why an entity like the downtown CID, which collects taxes to fund various services in downtown Kansas City’s south loop, would have an interest in a presence in Kansas.

Bill Dietrich revealed the existence of the letter on Monday at a special meeting of the Economic Development Council of Kansas City. To Dietrich, president and CEO of the Downtown Council of Kansas City, the letter underscored the intense competition across political boundaries in the Kansas City metro area for jobs and businesses.

“The competition is real,” Dietrich told the EDC board.

The Kansas Commerce Department, when asked about the letter, said it actively recruits businesses to the state.

“To answer your inquiry, every day the Department of Commerce actively recruits business for the state by promoting our superb business climate, skilled and educated workforce and our quality of life,” said Nicole Randall, spokeswoman for the agency.

That answer didn’t address a question posed to the agency about whether it had issued a mass mailing to several Missouri businesses. It does suggests that discussions about a truce between Kansas and Missouri to limit their use of incentives to attract businesses across the state line in the Kansas City area have broken down again.

Gov. Sam Brownback in April made a peace offering to cool the so-called economic incentive border war. Missouri lawmakers responded soon after that they were not impressed with his proposal, particularly after having made a more extensive entreaty in 2014 that Kansas rejected.

That Missouri offer, which passed the Missouri General Assembly, expires on Sunday.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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