AMC Theatres is the latest in a long line of Kansas City area companies to use the state line that runs down the middle of our metropolitan area to their financial advantage. In May, it was Applebee's jumping to Missouri to take advantage of incentives. Now it is AMC, fleeing downtown Kansas City after 91 years, and taking over 400 employees to Leawood, Kansas. They have every right to choose the location of their company. They are not a public trust and owe the citizens and taxpayers nothing. In fact, the Park Place development they are moving to is a very nice location. AMC has a clear goal of minimizing corporate expenses and maximizing corporate revenue. They are owned by a multi-national investment company, the Carlyle Group, that according to their own media info, "seeks to deliver attractive returns for our fund investors." Pretty clear what AMC CEO Gerry Lopez has been tasked with delivering back to the parent company.
|AMC Theatres current HQ|
|Park Place development|
So if AMC is not to blame for the metro area losing $60 plus million in tax revenue while gaining zilch, who is? The economic development officials on both sides of the state line are to blame. These men and women have done nothing to benefit the citizens of our area with this type of deal. They are fighting for bragging rights at the behest of the narrow geography they represent. They seem to forget that this is a complex metro area that does not exist within any one border. Hundreds of thousands of people cross dozens of political boundaries every day. Their lives are only improved when all of the areas they visit are improved. They don't care whose road it is, they just want it to be nice when they drive on it. Our economic development officials do not seem to get that. They are a myopic bunch at best.
Five Big Ideas plan. It is an ambitious and worthy roadmap for our future. How does corporate poaching improve entrepreneurship? Translational technology transfer? When was the last time any of the economic development teams in Kansas City lured a Fortune 1000 headquarters from another city to anywhere in the metro area? If we are going to give away $60 million in tax incentives, shouldn't the return on investment be completely new dollars to the area?
As citizens we musty demand better from all of our elected officials and the people they hire. The civic leaders of our city also need to stand up and work to grow our region, not just one small areas. The Greater Kansas City economy grew at only 1.52% in 2010, according to a report in the Kansas City Business Journal. That is good for 222nd among all metro areas. This does not even take into account our success globally. We are losing the fight, and we are losing it because we continue to let it be lost by fighting among ourselves. This is not unique to Kansas City, but we seem to do it better than most other metro areas.
We need to understand and accept that businesses will act in their best interest every time. We should leverage that motivation and focus our energy as a metro area and a region on new business creation, employment expansion and new employment recruitment. Continuing to shift headquarters a few miles at the expense of millions in needed tax revenue is a fools game. Consider that the next time your municipality raises your property tax rate, fees and sales tax after granting millions to lure a new business across a street.