Economy

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Amazon is building another huge facility in the Kansas City area, this one in Kansas City, Kansas, and it will bring more than 1,000 new jobs to an underutilized part of Wyandotte County.

Those jobs will start above minimum wage, come with benefits, and steep community college tuition discounts. They’ll be at a new facility south of I-70 near the Turner Diagonal, which is good news to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Prof Cloverdale / Flickr--CC

The investment firms that bought Hostess brand snack cakes for $185 million three years ago are about to make bank on the recovering Kansas City-based company. The firms announced Tuesday that they’d reached a deal to sell a majority of the company for $725 million.

Augie Grasis
Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Augie Grasis doesn’t shy away from the label “serial entrepreneur.”

“I guess it’s true from the standpoint that I’ve had a number of startups,” says Grasis, the founder of multiple technology companies in Kansas City. “It’s really what interests me the most and what turns me on the most about life and about commerce. It’s innovating and improving the way things are done.”

Grasis is best known for starting up Handmark, which made content apps for the Palm operating system before expanding to other platforms and being acquired by Sprint in 2013.

Unsplash / Pixabay

More Kansans are commuting to work than were in 2010.

That’s the latest from the Wichita State-based Center for Economic Development and Business Research, which on Thursday released an occasional report on Kansans’ commuting patterns.

“The choices about where we work are driven by the business cycle and what’s happening in that industry,” Pattie Bradley, senior research economist, says. “The choices we make about where to live are much more varied.”

Schools, crime, the cost and availability of housing, other amenities – all factor into the decisions people make.

GM Media / Wikimedia Commons

General Motors plans to invest $245 million in its Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, to manufacture a new sports utility vehicle, the firm confirmed Tuesday.

The new SUV, which industry analysts believe will be most likely sold as a Cadillac, according to published reports, had originally been slated to be built at a GM plant in Orion Township, Michigan.

“In January, we informed our employees that we would move production of an all-new vehicle planned for Orion Assembly to Fairfax Assembly in Kansas,” Christopher M. Bonelli, a GM spokesman, said in a statement.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s economy hasn’t bounced back as quickly from the recession as similar U.S. cities.

Many metro-area businesses are unaware of global export opportunities in their own backyards.

Those findings and others from a 2014 report commissioned by the Mid-America Regional Council startled Kansas City’s business community into action.

LaunchKC

Entrepreneurs often say one of the hardest parts of getting a new business off the ground is raising enough capital to stay afloat in the initial lean years. 

Metro-based technology funder LaunchKC hopes to help bridge those early years for several startups with the latest version of a competition that's set to dole out $500,000 in funding this summer. The group began accepting applications for this year's startup grants competition Friday. 

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Community members and civic leaders gathered Saturday for the 9th annual Urban Summit at the Kansas City Police East Patrol Station to talk about how to revitalize the Prospect corridor and strengthen the city's urban core. 

Organizers say the summit's goal each year is to turn community frustration  into a plan of action by sharing ideas, initiatives and resources. Rev. Eric Williams opened the event by addressing some of those frustrations.

Shawnee Mission School District

Being in high-school can feel like a full-time job — eight hours a day in the classroom, plus schoolwork to do at home.

Throw in an after school job and a few extra curricular activities and you’ve got a very busy teen.

Kansas City-area high-schoolers Dawson Borcherding and Daniel Serres have taken that already busy schedule one step further.

Both started their own companies before they turned 17.

Young Leaf Landscaping

Callie England
Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Callie England felt sick all the time. She went to doctors. She got her blood tested. By the time she was 21, she had taken more than 3,000 prescription pills and was at her wit’s end.

And then she changed what she ate.

Dan Hesse on Up To Date
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Dan Hesse retired after seven years as CEO of Sprint in August 2014, he vowed to take at least a year "completely off."

The year has come and gone — and Hesse is busy again ... but it's a different kind of busy.

"I'd been accused by many people of being a serial workaholic," Hesse says. "I tried to have a balanced life, but I really focused on being the best leader and mentor I could be. I wanted to take some time to be the best father, husband, son and friend that I could be."

Theresa L Wysocki / flickr

Bill Ford Jr., Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company, says the “smart mobility revolution” is on the way. He believes it won’t be long before cars drive themselves, roads collect data and self-report, and vehicles enter the service industry as driverless taxis and roving mobile shops.

Ford shared this vision at the Kinetic Transportation Summit Wednesday at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City.

Andrea Tudhope / / KCUR 89.3

Last November, for the first time, Kansas City child care workers spoke out about their low wages, as they officially joined fast food and other low wage workers in the Fight for 15, a movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

One worker involved in the movement is 30-year-old Kimmy DeVries. She works for a local Head Start program, where she and other care providers follow a relatively rigorous care and education program.

Frank Morris / KCUR

A technology company called Pramata is branching out to Kansas City.  The company’s office in Kansas City's Crossroads neighborhood will be its only U.S. hub outside of the San Francisco area.

Payday Loan Magnate Scott Tucker Arrested In Kansas City, Kansas

Feb 10, 2016
Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr -- CC

Scott Tucker, a Kansas City man who came upon tremendous wealth by running a payday lending enterprise, was among three people arrested Wednesday in connection with a federal investigation into these businesses.

Tucker and his attorney, Timothy Muir, were arrested in Kansas City, Kansas. Both men were charged by a grand jury in U.S. District Court of Southern New York on charges of conspiracy to collect unlawful debts from payday loan consumers.

A study released last month by Wichita State University found that Kansas'  sales tax pushes shoppers across state and county lines in order to save money on food. Kansas is one of only 14 states that includes groceries in the state sales tax.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR

Sprint Corp. is laying off more than 800 employees at its Overland Park headquarters.

The telecommunications company filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act, or WARN, notice with the state of Kansas late Friday. The firm said it's letting go a total of 829 workers.

Liliana and Max Younger
Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The basic technology of the crutch, Max and Liliana Younger knew, hadn’t changed since the Civil War.

But when Max’s father became a permanent crutch user after a partial leg amputation in 2008, the married couple — both industrial designers by training — committed themselves to rethinking an age-old technology.

“We knew it was something we needed to change,” Max says.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza will soon have a new owner.

Country Club KC Partners LLC is buying the Plaza for $660 million, Highwoods Properties announced Monday. The deal is expected to be finalized in the first quarter.

Country Club KC Partners is an equal partnership between Taubman Centers and the Macerich Company, which are based in Michigan and California, respectively. Both companies own and manage dozens of malls and shopping centers.

neetalparekh / Flickr--CC

Late this week, Kansans got two interesting pieces of economic data within 24 hours of each other. Let's start with the second: the state's latest jobs report for November.

Gov. Sam Brownback certainly liked what it had to say, based on a Tweet he sent out Friday morning. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Joe Reardon is leaving the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, less than a year after he took the regional bus service’s top job.

The former Kansas City, Kansas, mayor is headed to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, where he’ll replace Jim Heeter, who is retiring.

“The Chamber of Commerce is very, very lucky,” said Robbie Makinen, chairman of the KCATA Board of Commissioners. “I would think all that does is raise the transit volume for us. The partnerships we’re going to have together are going to be even better.”

Doug Danforth
Julie Denesha / / KCUR 89.3

Sometimes innovation is best left to the dogs. At least, that was the case for Doug Danforth.

Danforth had been CEO of Midland Loan Services, a subsidiary of PNC Bank in Overland Park. He was running the show. In 2009, the industry had seen better days, and he might have been ready to retire and spend a little more time with the family and with his dogs—Atticus, a yellow lab, and beagles Marley and Molly. Instead, those dogs were Danforth’s inspiration for a new product and company.

A report out this week examining the effectiveness of various state tax incentives gave top marks to the Missouri Works program.

Josh Goodman, senior researcher at the Pew Charitable Trusts, says in state after state, the costs of new tax credits and incentives have created budget problems.

But he says states like Missouri that require businesses to prove they’re creating jobs before getting a tax break are on the right track.

Casie Kolbinsky/KOMU / Flickr--CC

Kansas City’s earnings tax faces a big battle next year, and not just at the ballot box.

The 1 percent tax on people who live or work in Kansas City has to be approved by voters every five years, but not if a mid-Missouri state senator gets his way.

Republican Kurt Schaefer of Columbia has pre-filed legislation to repeal the taxes in Kansas City and St. Louis. In a statement, Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James has already vowed to fight “this wrong-minded legislation.”

The earnings tax brought in $228 million last year for the city.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

It was the first time since Gov. Jay Nixon took office that all of Missouri’s living governors were at the same place at the same time.

On Friday, Kit Bond, John Ashcroft, Roger Wilson, Bob Holden and Matt Blunt joined Nixon in Kansas City for a panel discussion of the state’s economic victories.

Bond, who created the Hawthorn Foundation in 1982 to raise private funds for trade missions, says Missouri wasn’t open for business back when he was governor.

Courtest Photo / Blooom

It’s been a big year for Blooom, the Leawood, Kansas, based finance-tech company.

In addition to taking home a $50,000 grant from LaunchKC during Techweek in September, the company has just been crowned the first-ever winner of the "One in a Million" startup competition, presented by the Kauffman Foundation's 1 Million Cups program.

The grand prize — $10,000.

Plexpod

In recent years, Kansas City has emerged as a startup hub. Now, the metro's burgeoning tech community will soon have a centerpiece space in which to do its work. 

Kansas City Power & Light wants to build a solar farm in southeastern Jackson County, near Greenwood.

If the Missouri Public Service Commission greenlights the application next month, the solar farm could be online as soon as April.

“The sun and sunshine is free, so to the extent we can harness that, there’s very little operational cost to running this solar farm,” says KCP&L spokesman Chuck Caisley.

Dan Verbeck / KCUR

Union workers at Ford’s truck assembly plant in Claycomo have dented the push to ratify the new labor agreement worked out between Ford and the UAW. 

Cody Newill / KCUR

Kansas City area residents have joined a nationwide effort petitioning Sprint to keep offering internet for nonprofit organizations through its WiMax service.

WiMax provides low-cost, high-bandwidth internet access with no data caps through mobile hotspots. Providers Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen use the service to hook up schools and other nonprofits.

Sprint acquired WiMax along with telecommunications company Clearwire in 2013, and decided to shut down the service and migrate customers over to its LTE service instead.

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