Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together!

It's only the first week of session and I'm excited about the united front that many KC leaders are showing in Jefferson City. On Monday night the KC Chamber hosted a dinner where they presented their legislative priorities for 2010. There were dozens of KC business leaders in the room, but more importantly, more than half of the KC City Council members and several of the city employees were on hand to meet with the KC state legislative delegation and discuss issues that are critical to the KC metro this year.

Last year I raised quite a stink about all the different groups that come from Kansas City to the Capitol, each with their massive agenda and well-paid lobbyists. The result was often a lack of consensus on what the metro's priorities really were and a gaggle of lobbyists each working against the other's best interest. I took the late spring/early summer to talk to multiple groups about the need for a consensus agenda from the metro and the need for all the groups to talk in one voice about what our real priorities are for the city.

I was very excited to get a visit Tuesday morning from a group with a single postcard that said: Kansas City's 2010 Consensus Agenda for Economic Development. It was presented jointly by The Chamber, The City of Kansas City, The KC Economic Development Corporation and the Downtown Council. Chamber and civic leaders, business owners, city council members and lobbyists brought the card to me as a group and informed me they had been making the rounds with leadership in the House and the Senate presenting a united front for KC. It was great. I love it when a plan comes together!

Even better were the items that made the consensus agenda, including my two top priorities -- child care assistance and the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act. I can't seem to find the consensus agenda on line, so I'm going to recreate it for you here:

"The continued economic competitiveness and vitality of the Kansas City region are dependent on the State of Missouri having an economic development strategy that focuses on high-growth industries of the 21st Century; fosters the creation, attraction, and retention of high-quality jobs; and establishes a business environment where companies -- and employees -- want to be located.

Recognizing the need to focus on growing the Kansas City region's economy along with the State's economy, we support:

Retaining existing state economic development incentives and programs - including MODESA, state TIFs, tax credits, and other programs that benefit Kansas City area projects.

Developing new economic development tools that help to level the playing field with competing states and give Missouri - and the Kansas City region - a competitive edge in growing, attracting and retaining development that provides jobs and contributes to a high quality of life now and in the future.

Reducing the eligibility threshold in Missouri's Quality Jobs Act for job retention projects.

Developing innovative tools to grow and support the science and technology industries, such as the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act and the Missouri Jobs for the Future Act.

Improving access and lowering the cost of child care for low-income workers.

Passing the Port Authority Act to allow for environmental remediation at Port Authority sites throughout Missouri.

Adopting new mechanisms to promote the development of the Vine Street District and similar distressed districts throughout Missouri.

Fully funding the First Quartile Kansas City projects listed in the Joint Committee on Capital Improvements and Leases Oversight report: $5.0 million for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority; $10.0 million for East Village Infrastructure; $6.75 million for Oxford on the Blue; and $2.8 million for the Metropolitan Community College's Homeland Security Regional Training Institute."

Were there some disappointments? Sure. I would have liked to see other organizations put their stamp of approval on the consensus agenda. The KC Civic Council, UMKC, Kansas City Area Development Corporation and others come to mind. I wish there were more of a focus on public transportation and access to quality health care as necessary components to job creation and economic development. And finally, I wish Mayor Funkhouser would have come with the delegation to put his stamp of approval on the agenda and spend some time meeting with the legislators who will be asked to carry this ball across the goal line.

Even so - this is a definite step in the right direction and I am excited about the coordinated energy coming out of our city.

If you would like more information about additional priorities put forth by some of these groups, you can check out the Chamber's Missouri Public Policy page, and the City of Kansas City's Legislative Priorities Resolution.


mark said...

Good job, Jolie! Getting groups to even think about working together instead of pursuing their own agenda is a huge step. It's one that helps all of us as well as the groups, but it often isn't the way that groups operate.
Next step (it's a big one): a consensus agenda that includes governments, business and community groups from throughout the KCMO region!

Joe Medley said...


Good work on getting these groups to work together.

Their agenda has a few things that concern me. First, getting an incentive requires a lot of cash. This skews these programs in favor of large corporations. While I have nothing against big organizations, research is increasingly showing that the engine of economic growth is small companies, particularly those with fewer than 20 employees.

I'm also a concerned about the focus on high tech industries. Although this is a lucrative area to pursue, excessive focus on this can blind us to other opportunities. As a friend of mine pointed out recently, long before the Japanese sold compact cars and digital watches they manufactured bicycles, not exactly a cutting edge industry in its day.

I'm also surprised that when business people talk about attracting companies, there's never any discussion about the fact that the law of supply and demand applies. Everyone is bending over backwards to get high tech. What is the supply of such industries relative to demand? In any case, the high demand creates a seller's market in which governments have to be extremely careful about the deals they make.

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