KC mayor promises tougher city business retention effort

Kansas City officially launched a new business retention effort today, and Mayor Sly James promised the city would no longer “sit on the sidelines” and watch Kansas raid businesses.

“We need to compete,” James told an audience at the Boulevard Brewery. “The day of sitting back and watching it happen are over.

“Mutually assured destruction only works if both sides are armed. They have a gun. We have a Popsicle stick.

"We need to compete with Minneapolis and Dallas, not Overland Park. That’s a waste of time and money.”

The new KC BEST initiative, or business expansion and support team, has been in the works at the Kansas City Economic Development Corp. for sometime, but efforts were stepped up when several large companies relocated to Kansas including JPMorgan Retirement Plan Services and KeyBank Real Estate Capital.

In recent months, AMC Entertainment has been offered $47 million in incentives to relocate from downtown to Kansas.

Legislation is being considered in the Missouri General Assembly that would provide more assistance to the city in retaining companies such as AMC.

The city will know late Friday whether that legislation will be approved, according to Jeff Kaczmarek, EDC president and CEO. Even with if the new legislation is approved, the counter-offer will fall far short of what Kansas has on the table, but Kaczmarek said it will keep the city in the hunt to retain AMC.

“If we get our legislation, it will make a significant competitive difference,” he said. “It will keep us in the ballgame.”

Kaczmarek also said the election of James should make a big difference in the city’s recruitment and retention effort.

Former Mayor Mark Funkhouser was a frequent critic of the EDC, and attended one board meeting during his four years in office.

“It’s great to have a chief marking officer for Kansas City and that’s Mayor Sly James,” Kaczmarek said.