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Agencies Resist Economic Development Plan

Mayor Sly James is expressing some frustration with late-in-the-game resistance to his Advance KC economic development consolidation program.

Seeking business development incentives? In Kansas City you could approach any one of more than a half a dozen agencies.

Mayor James says it leads to "agency shopping," inconsistent offers and a disjointed  incentive policy with inadequate city council direction.

James has said from the start that the city needs a “single point of entry” incentives system, with several agencies combining facilities and staff at the Economic Development Corporation.

The mayor seemed surprised and irritated last week when two agencies said they don't want to be merged.  He said the matter has been in the discussion stage for a year, and, “I sat down with the head of each statutory agency and two things: single point of entry and combined staff... and they went. 'Okay.'”

The mayor added, “We do have to be in control; not them, not the developers, nobody else.” He sees the current process as one in which elected city leadership is only involved "after the fact," and believes that granting any agency that grants incentives an exemption from the plan is a "slippery slope" on which every quasi-governmental agency could expect special considerations.

The Port Authority and the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority both asked not to be merged with the EDC.  But the Port Authority was most adamant.  The Port Authority shared space and some staff functions with the EDC, but split from it a couple of years back. Its director argues that the agency has invested considerable time and money in becoming independent, and that business incentives are only one part of its multi-faceted operations.

The council is giving the two agencies 60 days to “adopt resolutions of similar language” to their own or to negotiate an arrangement with the EDC.

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