Though outsiders may not know it, Kansas City, straddling the Kansas-Missouri border, has become a battlefield for those engaged in the art of business recruitment and retention – and this battle may just have more far-reaching consequences than any Jayhawks vs. Tigers matchup on the gridiron or the hardwood. In April, 2011, The New York Times detailed this rivalry and provided commentary from many of its key players.
As discussed in the article, there are as many opinions on the consequences of this rivalry as there are business incentive programs in each state:
"In all candor, it’s unusual and a little disconcerting,” said Gerry Lopez, chief executive of AMC Entertainment, the movie theater chain, which is being offered incentives to move to Kansas from Missouri. “I do wonder whether this is an appropriate role for government to be playing."
But, the game does not seem likely to end in the near future. Economist Timothy J. Bartik’s description of the incentive rivalry as a “zero sum game” may strike legislators and outside commentators as appealing politically since it comports with notions of fairness and equality amongst the fifty states. However, for those businesses like AMC Entertainment, who find themselves in the position of being wooed by lucrative tax incentive structures, to say nothing of visits from each state’s governor, the heated rivalry between the two states may be well worth it financially, a point that may not be trumpeted enough in the Times piece. Missouri and Kansas both offer substantial incentives for relocating and expanding business within their borders, but our experience has been that the benefits to a city in either state of relocating a business a mere mile or two down the road, which happens to cross on the state line, may also be incenting a new border conflict where the use of such tools could be restricted or otherwise impacted.
During the 2011 legislative session, Missouri’s legislators focused a great deal of time and energy in contemplating a restructuring of some of Missouri’s incentive programs, but ultimately many of the proposed bills were not passed. Providing more lucrative tax breaks to corporate citizens may not be high on the agenda for those mindful of potential budget shortfalls though certainly the stories of Missouri companies relocating across the border do strike a chord with Kansas City, Missouri and Missouri state officials. Nearly 150 years after William Quantrill’s infamous raid of Lawrence, Kansas, it may be Kansas officials who are dealing a lasting blow to their neighbors to the east.