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USDA Agencies Landing Downtown, Second Big Office Win in a Week

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Editor’s note: The USDA has confirmed its relocating its agencies to 805 Pennsylvania

The Port KC board unanimously approved establishing an AIM Zone at its meeting Monday to assist the USDA relocation plan. The authority expects to receive a share totaling $6 million over the 15-year life of the AIM Zone to be used for Port KC infrastructure.

Jon Stephens, Port KC executive director, said a formal announcement is expected soon from the USDA about its plan. Board members were told about 525 jobs are expected. Stephens also said the building at 805 Pennsylvania slated for the USDA agencies is predominately vacant.

By Kevin Collison

Two USDA agencies employing more than 550 people are coming to downtown Kansas City, according to multiple sources, the second major job announcement in less than a week for the central business district.

After a search of the metropolitan area that began last June when Kansas City was selected to be the new home of former Washington-based agencies, sources say they will be located in an office building at 805 Pennsylvania Ave. in space formerly occupied by State Street Corp.

A job incentive package for the relocation to 805 Pennsylvania is scheduled to be considered by the Port KC board today. (See above)

At the time of its announcement in June, USDA officials said state and local governments had offered incentive packages totaling more than $26 million.

If the USDA operations come downtown as expected, they will join more than 1,000 employees at Waddell & Reed who will be relocating as well by early 2022.

Last week, a city development agency endorsed incentives for an up to 15-story building that would be the $140 million headquarters for the financial services firm. Two sites are are believed finalists: 1300 Grand or 1400 Baltimore.

As for the USDA agencies, the Port KC board is expected to consider a request for incentives for their relocation through the state Advanced Industrial Manufacturing program.

The AIM program allows a developer to keep 50 percent of the withholding taxes for new jobs to assist with improvements and operations.

The relocation of the two research agencies from Washington D.C. has been controversial since the U.S Department of Agriculture announced the plan in August 2018.

A search for the 120,000 square foot operation and its 550-plus employees drew applications from throughout the U.S.

Critics say it was intended to gut key research agencies working in fields, including some in politically sensitive areas like global warming, that sometimes challenge conservative policies.

Supporters say its a cost-saving measure that also moves USDA researchers closer to the nation’s agricultural heartland.

In the end, Kansas City edged out Indianapolis and the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle in North Carolina for the agencies: the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Following a rigorous site selection process, the Kansas City Region provided a win win, maximizing our mission function by putting taxpayer savings into programmatic outputs and providing affordability, easy commutes and extraordinary living for our employees,” UDSDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement last summer announcing the decision.

“The Kansas City Region has proven itself to be hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland.”

Despite the secretary’s praise, the warnings of critics of the move have been largely realized.

As of early this month, about 10 percent of the employees at the two agencies, 61 people, had decided to relocate from Washington to Kansas City. That means most of the jobs at the ERS and NIFA will have to be filled by new hires.

The space slated for the USDA employees is part of a complex built for Boston-based State Street Corp. in 1999 in the northwest corner of downtown and owned by DST Realty.

State Street’s local office has been undergoing significant layoffs since the beginning of the year.

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