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USDA expected to relocate offices to downtown KCMO

Posted at 5:31 PM, Oct 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-25 23:24:11-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, may be the big winner in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to relocate some of its offices to the KC area from Washington.

Port KC will consider will consider a motion to create an Advanced Industrial Manufacturing Zone at 805 Pennsylvania Ave. for the old State Street Building in the Historic Garment District.

Multiple sources confirmed to 41 Action News that the vote is a precursor to landing the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Kansas City was selected as a finalist for the proposed move of those departments in May. The USDA announced the relocation to Kansas City a month later.

Landing the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which was expected to bring more than 500 high-paying jobs to the Kansas City area, created competition for the physical location of the new offices.

Sources told 41 Action News in June that downtown sites were in consideration along with Crown Center, Quality Hill and the Sprint campus in Overland Park.

It appears that downtown has won out, according to multiple sources.

“AIM Zones allow the board of commissioners to identify an area for development or redevelopment for any purpose within the port district,” according to Port KC documents. “Fifty percent of the state tax withholdings imposed on new jobs within the AIM Zone shall be remitted to the general fund of Missouri to be deposited into the port authority AIM Zone fund. Moneys collected from an established AIM Zone are used for development or redevelopment within said AIM Zone.”

The move has been controversial, with a union representing the USDA employees alleging the move was part of a “grand strategy” by the Trump administration to deplete the federal workforce.

Many workers protested having to uproot lives, move families and sever policy ties by giving up the proximity to lawmakers.

More than half with the Economic Research Service declined to move to Kansas City, while nearly two-thirds opted not to relocate with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Others chastised the move as politically motivated.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, released a statement blasting the decision to relocate the offices.

“Many of these staffers believe their relocation is an effort to silence their research into topics that do not align with the Trump administration’s political agenda, including the study of climate change and benefits of low-income food assistance,” she said June 13 when Kansas City was announced as the new location.

The Trump administration said the relocation was an attempt to move the agencies closer to farmers, research universities and agribusinesses.

Earlier this month, the USDA said only 61 employees had followed through with the move to Kansas City with another 60 who had “delayed relocation orders” and may eventually still move.

The Washington Post reported that both departments had lost nearly 75% of their staff and the worker shortage “has left grant money in limbo and delayed dozens of reports.”

For now, employees are temporarily working out of the USDA’s Beacon Complex in KCMO.