Push for KCMO resident goals in public projects

Posted at 6:03 PM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 19:03:27-05

It's the largest development project in Missouri's history.

Cerner Corporation is building a $4.3 billion office complex in south Kansas City's Bannister Mall area.

Some of the features include retail space, a hotel and a medical clinic.

The first phase of what's expected to be a 10 year construction project is scheduled to be completed in March 2016.

KCMO taxpayers are covering roughly 40 percent of the construction cost with about $1.7 billion through tax incentives.

"I think the Cerner project is a great opportunity for south Kansas City,"  said KCMO Councilwoman Alissia Canady.

RELATED: KC City Council approves sale of Bannister Mall Complex for new Cerner development

Expected to create 15,000 jobs, the project is in the councilwoman's 5th District.

She says she heard an earful after the two most recent city quarterly reports, covering May through October, showed Cerner project general contractor J.E. Dunn averaged just over one tenth of one percent in KCMO worker hours.

The reports showed Cerner's subcontractors averaged two percent.

"There was strong concern from the community that Kansas City residents were not being represented on that job site," said Canady.

After 41 Action News investigators started asking questions, we were told there was a clerical error computing the numbers.

We're told the actual KCMO worker hours averaged a little over 11.5 percent for that six month period.

Canady is happy the numbers are better than first reported. But for her, they're still not good enough.

She's talking to Dunn.

"The number I've asked for to start out with is at least 30 percent," Canady said.

She's currently working on a measure to include enforceable KCMO resident goals in all future city funded projects.

Currently, unlike targets for minority and women participation the Cerner project is exceeding, resident goals aren't required, even though city law requires reporting the numbers.

Canady has already spearheaded what she says is a first of its kind agreement in KCMO that requires the downtown convention hotel project to have 13 percent resident construction job participation and 30 percent of the after construction jobs.

"The goal is to make sure that if the incentives they're receiving from Kansas City residents and the taxpayers are here, they need to be represented on those job sites," Canady said. "A number of other cities are doing it and having great impact."

Local trade and commerce groups as well as the Baptist Ministers Union are also looking for solutions to get greater KCMO job participation on publicly funded projects.

Representatives say they've contacted the U.S. Justice Department's Community Relations Service to potentially help negotiate a deal.

As it stands right now, Cerner and Dunn are living up to the terms of their deal with the city.

A Dunn spokeswoman says the company is making a good faith effort to increase KCMO resident hours, even though there's no contractual requirement to do it.


Andy Alcock can be reached at

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