Chamber names former DST Realty chairman Phil Kirk its Kansas Citian of the Year

The chamber’s Kansas Citian of the Year, Phil Kirk.
The chamber’s Kansas Citian of the Year, Phil Kirk.

Phil Kirk, retired chairman of DST Realty Inc., can add Kansas Citian of the Year to a hefty resume.

The award, kept close to the vest until the close of each year’s annual meeting of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, was revealed Tuesday night.

“Phil tends to shun the limelight, so he may not be as well known as some of our past award winners,” said chamber president Jim Heeter. “But believe me, anyone who knows who’s responsible for big things in Kansas City knows Phil Kirk is involved.”

Kirk accepted the award from last year’s winner, James B. Nutter Sr., and thanked Nutter for his many years of mentoring and friendship.

Kirk also called for elimination of the “border war” in which the Kansas and Missouri sides of the metro area have poached business offices and jobs from each other.

Instead, he said, the area needs the “power of two,” both states working together to foster real growth and attract new businesses.

Kirk’s career has focused on downtown redevelopment, including office building renovation and new construction. He helped create a “nonprofit campus” using historic preservation of buildings on Quality Hill and helped create the 11th Street Corridor Tax Increment Financing District.

He is credited as the idea man behind the Kansas City Public Library’s central location in a former bank building and the Crossroads Academy charter school’s location downtown.

He has served volunteer roles for the Mid-America Regional Council, the Downtown Council, and many nonprofit and real estate organizations. He and his family’s philanthropic foundation have supported the DeLaSalle Education Center, the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Folly Theater and other charitable organizations.

Kirk’s 2013 Kansas Citian award is a bronze statue by Kansas City-based sculptor Tom Corbin, one of a series of local artists commissioned by the chamber to design each year’s award.

This year’s event, the chamber’s 126th annual dinner, was attended by about 1,800 at the Kansas City Convention Center under the theme “KC3D.” Guests watched a 3-D movie about the chamber’s “multiple dimensions” in the community.

Heeter said the chamber worked this year to keep focus on its Big 5 community development priorities begun three years ago.

The chamber’s immediate past chairman, Russell Welsh, thanked business leaders for moving the Big 5 forward and emphasized remaining challenges, including the need for better funding for public education.

Welsh also spoke about the border war’s unresolved competition. He said there was “progress towards a workable solution that focuses on net regional job growth and not wasting each state’s money on moving businesses a mile or two just to cross a state line.”

But, Welsh said, “behind-the-scenes efforts among all interested parties” are needed before a truce is declared.

The chamber’s new chairwoman, Roshann Parris, appealed to the crowd to help civic leaders: “What’s the one thing you would get engaged in if you thought the future of our region rested on it? I challenge each of you to ask that question, and then set about answering it in the way that’s most meaningful to you, and most impactful to the world around you.”

TV actress Kirstie Alley, a Wichita native, was the featured entertainer.

Key business sponsors of the event were Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Polsinelli, UMB, Hallmark Cards, Lockton Cos. and Sprint.