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Applebee’s Split From Kansas City Region May Help End Economic Border War

Mike Mozart
Wikimedia Commons--CC

Applebee’s is leaving the Kansas City area after bouncing around the region for decades, collecting tax incentives.   

Applebee’s parent company DineEquity announced Friday that it’s moving executive functions for the Kansas City based restaurant chain to California.

Back in the 1980s, Applebee’s was based in Kansas City, Missouri. Overland Park, Kansas lured the company across the state line in 1993. Fifteen years later, they moved to Lenexa, Kansas, into a new building, with an almost total property tax abatement. Then, four years ago the company moved back to Kansas City ... again collecting millions of dollars in incentives. Lenexa Chamber of Commerce CEO Blake Schreck says Applebee’s illustrates a problem with development incentives.  

“And that’s crystallizing what we’re talking about now how often can we allow companies to move back and forth across the state line, and what kind of incentives are we going to be giving them if that happens every four or five years,” says Schreck.

The cut-throat competition to lure companies and jobs across the state line in the Kansas City area is popularly known as the "Border War."  Schreck says that what are colloquially known as “border war committees” in both Kansas and Missouri are closing in on a compact to dampen cross-boarder job poaching.

He says that a compact will likely include a provision under which governments would agree to grant economic incentives only on new jobs created, when a company simply jumped the state line, rather than calculating the incentives on the total number of jobs moving.

He says that some effort to bring some uniformity to Kansas and Missouri state incentive packages is coming and he expects an announcement this fall.  

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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