Good news, Kansans: AMC Entertainment is moving to Leawood bringing 400 jobs with it.
The bad news: While the jobs may appear as a net gain for the state in some economic development score sheet, it’s really just a re-shuffle of existing jobs.
The movie theatre conglomerate is merely moving a few miles across the state line from Kansas City, Mo. to beautiful Johnson County.
The really bad news? In order to entice the mega-corporation, Kansas is throwing a reported $47 million incentive package at the company.
No one can blame AMC, which was founded in Kansas City, Mo. in 1920, for making the move. They’ll leave behind an older, dingy-looking building to move into swanky, $30 million new digs at Park Place at 117th Street and Nall Avenue in Leawood.
But the company could’ve built a $30 million building on the other side of the river. And it appears Missouri officials were willing to offer what incentives they could to keep AMC in the state.
In the end, it couldn’t overcome Kansas’ $47 million in incentives. And that’s the part that makes us a little ill.
While the new add to Kansas’ bottom line will look stellar on some politician’s resume, it’s an empty shell of an acquisition with little or no benefit to the larger community. Sure, Leawood banks a tidy tax sum, and Kansas will have a tiny portion, but if Kansas City drowns in its own mismanagement, the rest of us will surely suffer for it in the long run.
And make no mistake, Kansas City is drowning in its own mismanagement. The vaunted Power and Light District is largely subsidized by an ever-shrinking number of Kansas City residents, wealthy patrons are rethiniking spending their money on the Plaza where the occasional flash mob of teens beats unsuspecting Cheesecake Factory diners, and the school district just lost accreditation.
We’re not suggesting for one moment that both states shouldn’t do what they can to make their states as attractive to businesses as possible. We are, however, suggesting that cutting off our nose to spite Missouri’s face is not the brightest approach. Instead both states should be crafting policies that work to attract small, as well as, large business.
AMC once started as a small theater in downtown Kansas City, but no small theater owner is going to open a theater in Leawood and attempt to compete with a theater that just received a $47 million tax incentive. The next big theater company won’t come from Leawood. Of that, we’re certain.
Kansas City can make itself more attractive to large and small businesses alike by nixing its ridiculous 1 percent earnings tax. The 400 AMC employees moving across the state line just got a 1 percent pay raise, and it cost the state of Kansas nothing.
While cherry-picking businesses is repulsive, we appreciate and full-heartedly support the push to limit or even eliminate Kansas’ state income tax.
Both the city income and state income taxes benefit everyone, including the small entrepreneur who may just be the next big thing. That’s what we hope our public officials will start to consider as they craft policy rather than a shallow boast on an empty balance sheet.