Harrisonville business costs low, but cooperation key

August 26, 2011 

By Dennis Minich, Special to The Democrat Missourian

Business leaders called on the city to be more responsive to their concerns while Harrisonville officials said the city is economically, the most business-friendly community in the metro.

Comments such as those came out during a Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce meeting the with city in a brown bag luncheon Aug. 18 at the Community Center.

In an open discussion, both sides conceded that the tough economic times are challenging and increased cooperation is a necessity to help the city through the economic downturn.

City Administrator Keith Moody provided statistical analysis of economic indicators for 48 cities in the Kansas City metro. Much like a previously released cost-of-living study, the idea of the analysis was to take a variety of factors including rent, taxes and utility fees and apply them to a sample business to determine a cost comparison.

Using a 15,000 square foot retail space as a model, the variables were assembled and the result was Harrisonville ranking first with a total of $111,681 annually.

The average cost was $127,826. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. was the most expensive at $147,170.

Local cities coming in under average were Pleasant Hill, Peculiar and Belton. Above average locally were Raymore and Louisburg.

Moody said a good compative city in terms of size, proximity to the metro and similar city services was Gardner, Kan. Gardner was the third-highest business location at nearly $140,000.

Moody did not claim the statistical model to be perfect, but he said it did provide a surprising result. “Often perspectives are not reality,” he said.

“There is a perception that Harrisonville is a very expensive place to do business. When we gathered these results, I thought we would be well below average, but we were the lowest.

“We came in well below average on cost-of-living also and much of that is utilities. In the past two years most other communities have seen their utilities increase several times, and we have actually been able to cut the costs.”

Moody said he is eager to work with city businesses, both retail and manufacturing to plug numbers into the formula and determine the validity on individual businesses of various sizes.

Moody also said the city was considering adding an economic development director to help promote the city to new manufacturing and retail operations. He said that $100,000 was budgeted for the position and $15,000 is budgeted for a business development study software program to help businesses attract and retain business.

Mayor Kevin Wood said this week that both expenditures remained in the budget during Monday night’s budget work session, but final plans have not been made. He does think the economic development director would be an important position to fill.

“If we want the business community to grow and prosper we need more people marketing it. This would be a great chance to market the community and bring in more businesses,” Wood said.

Many of the problems local businesses are facing are federal and state regulations, but there were some local concerns expressed.

Tim Soulis, co-owner of Golden Classics Jewelry and the chairman of the chamber’s government relations committee, said simplifying city codes would be a place to start.

“We need to nurture our current small businesses while recruiting new business,” Soulis said.

“There are areas like codes enforcement and sign codes that can be looked at. We have a different economic engine than Overland Park or even Raymore, and we need to adapt to our needs.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 15.

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