Downtown Kansas City picks up a few new private jobs

Two Johnson County companies are bucking the trend and moving jobs to downtown Kansas City.

CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust said Thursday that the firm will relocate its headquarters and about a dozen jobs from Leawood to the Town Pavilion office tower. Henderson Engineers of Lenexa is opening a branch office with eight to 12 employees in the Crossroads Arts District.

The decision to bring private jobs downtown, although a small number, comes in the context of a recent report in The Star that found downtown lost 19.6 percent of its private jobs between 2001 and 2011 despite the major reinvestments made during that period, according to the U.S. census. That’s 16,237 fewer private workers.

“We are very pleased to be moving downtown,” Rick Green, chairman of CorEnergy, said in a statement. “As a financial services firm, we are excited to be part of the vibrancy of the central business district.”

Though the initial number is small, CorEnergy expects to double its employment to 25 by next year. The firm, which invests in the energy industry and owns natural gas infrastructure in Wyoming, was recently listed by The Star as one of the faster-growing companies in the region.

“We look forward to continuing to grow our firm in the coming years as active members of Kansas City’s downtown business community,” Green said.

CorEnergy will occupy 7,000 square feet on the 33rd floor of Town Pavilion and expects to be in its new space by September. The company did not seek tax incentives as part of its 10-year lease.

Jon Copaken of Copaken Brooks, which manages the 38-story building at 1100 Walnut St., praised the firm’s decision.

“Their choice underscores their understanding of the importance of downtown in accessing the next generation of employees and seeing their company thrive,” he said.

Henderson officials said they wanted to open an office at 1619 Walnut St. to stay in closer touch with urban clients. The firm has been at 8345 Lenexa Drive since last year. It first moved its headquarters from Kansas City to Kansas in 1986.

“We’re very satisfied with the new space,” said Rich Smith, president of Henderson. “However, we realized there was a need to have an office closer to some of our clients in the urban core of Kansas City.

“That, plus the opportunity to put more jobs downtown and be part of the creative culture, was the driving force behind this addition.”

Fuel for growth

CorEnergy Investment Trust Inc., based in Leawood, and Inergy LP and Inergy Midstream LP, based in Kansas City, have found their sweet spots in the business of moving and storing fuel.

They ensure that the growing volumes of domestic oil and natural gas get to where they’re refined, processed or eventually used. The business calls for pipelines, storage and other infrastructure, and that’s the need targeted by these three area companies.

They each focus on the midstream sector of the burgeoning energy industry by buying storage and transportation facilities and giving investors the opportunity to participate. These midstream assets are sprinkled around the country.

In December, CorEnergy completed its biggest acquisition so far by paying $229 million for about 150 miles of pipeline and other facilities in Wyoming that gather natural gas produced in that state.

Its purchase highlights a shift in what CorEnergy does. Since its founding in 2005, CorEnergy bought investment securities tied to energy. It has been liquidating those and funneling the money into real assets, such as the Wyoming operation. That accounts for the company’s unusual ability to generate more profits than revenues. It is still earning money from the securities it hasn’t sold yet.

Future asset buys won’t necessarily be restricted to oil and gas. It already owns part of an electric transmission line in New Mexico that fits with its mission. The company’s name is a play on being a “corridor” for energy.