When you look at how the game of wooing businesses from other cities with tax breaks is often played in the metropolitan area, the words of Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach on the subject ring a little hollow.
Last week Gerlach highlighted some encouraging economic news in his State of the City speech. Toward the end, he talked directly about the ongoing local border war over jobs.
“Unlike what others may say and have you think, we, the city of Overland Park and the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, we do not solicit or ‘poach’ companies. Ever!”
However, many elected officials in this area could claim the same thing, even though everyone knows companies in Missouri are hopping the state line to Kansas to take advantage of tax incentives (and vice versa), and even though some job-shifting is going on between Johnson County cities such as Shawnee and Lenexa.
So how’s the game work if city officials aren’t aggressively trying to steal businesses from each other?
Development lawyers, real estate agents, company CEOs and economic development agencies know the tricks.
They’re the ones making calls to city halls or the states to find out what taxpayer subsidies are available. They also are on the hunt for the best-priced office space, which means checking out what existing space is available or whether a client wants to build something new.
Overland Park, for instance, has benefited in recent years as businesses have filled up some of the excess space at Sprint’s headquarters.
Businesses and their hired guns often are quite active in the scramble for public subsidies. It’s all part of an economically destructive border war being played in too many local cities — including Overland Park.