micropolitan

Pictured is the construction zone of a new slip ramp that will connect 285th Street to the southbound lanes of Highway 71 just south of the Kawasaki Motors factory in Maryville. The ramp, along with improvements to 285th Street, is being paid for with $2.1 million from Kawasaki. The project is one of several industry-related investments that helped Maryville make the top 20 in Site Selection Magazine’s survey of Top Micropolitan Communities for the second year in a row.

The survey measures economic development in terms of industrial projects embracing major capital investment, job creation and building purchases.

Though down a few notches from last year’s No. 10 finish, which placed Maryville in a three-way tie with the Kentucky cities of Danville and Somerset, the most recent survey marked the city’s second consecutive listing within the top 100.

The roster is based on a survey of more than 500 communities nationwide.

A micropolitan is a city or area with a population of at least 10,000 and no more than 50,000 that serves as a regional hub for employment and commerce. Rankings are based on the number of qualifying industrial projects recorded in a given year.

According to a joint release issued by Nodaway County Economic Development and the City of Maryville, the city and county together have experienced about $140 million in public and private investment over the past two years.

“The ranking from Site Selection Magazine is yet another indicator of the momentum that is building in this region,” said City Manager Greg McDanel. “While the attraction of new companies is a goal, the continued reinvestment by existing industry is just as crucial for our long-term viability as a community.”

NCED Executive Director Josh McKim said the back-to-back top-20 rankings are indicative of the area’s willingness to move forward in the face of economic adversity.

“The closure of (the Energizer battery plant in 2013) was a major hit to our community, but over the last two and a half years our employers and community have fought to grow,” said McKim, who noted that employment has risen by approximately 400 workers since 2014.

“Every community faces challenges and disappointments, but the mark of great communities is how they respond. Maryville’s response to adversity has proven it is a strong and vibrant community,” McKim said.

Steve Bratt, vice president at the Kawasaki Motors plant, where a $25.5 million expansion helped land the city on Site Selection’s top-10 list a year ago, said a strong workforce and supportive local government are major factors in Maryville’s move toward the higher end of the ranking.

“Maryville’s success is directly attributable to the local labor force,” Bratt said. “Our growth has been contributed to by the work ethic of the people in northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa. They are the backbone of our success. It’s a hardworking, loyal and quality-minded workforce.”

McKim cited figures showing that the region’s workforce is 25 percent more productive than the state average and 35 percent more productive than the federal average.

He credited the high level of worker output to the area’s rural culture as well access to quality education and training opportunities.

“It’s a number of things all coming together,” McKim said.

Bratt said actions taken by City Hall and economic development leaders like McKim have proved instrumental to continued growth here over the past few years.

“Our city government is pro industry, which makes it easier for us to get things done,” he said. “NCED has been the go-to organization to help communicate industry needs and wants to the city, county and state.”

As an example of public-private cooperation, Bratt referenced the city’s approval two years ago of an Industrial Development Revenue Bond tax abatement package designed to finance the plant’s 100,000-square-foot expansion, which was projected to create about 30 new jobs.

Under terms of the agreement, both Kawasaki’s existing facility and the expansion, including new fixtures and machinery, were transferred to city ownership, with the corporation paying rent equivalent to principal and interest over the 10-year life of the bonds.

The agreement exempts Kawasaki from all real property and personal property taxes for 10 years, with the exception of personal property tax assessed on equipment in the older part of the plant.

In order to preserve a portion of the revenue streams of various taxing entities, including the Maryville R-II School District, Kawasaki agreed to make “pilot payments” — payments in lieu of taxes — equivalent to the 2014 assessed valuation of its real property and 50 percent of the property taxes anticipated over 10 years on $18.5 million in equipment purchases for the expansion.

Kawasaki also played a role in keeping Maryville toward the top of the 2016 list through its $2.1 million investment in a paving project along 285th Street adjoining the factory’s campus that will include a new public-access southbound ramp onto Highway 71.

The ramp will begin with a “T” intersection on 285th just south of the factory. In addition, the now-gravel road is to be paved with concrete as it curves west and links to a private street built by the corporation last summer and leading to the plant’s loading docks.

All costs for the improvements are being paid by Kawasaki.

Bratt said local officials worked to move the project forward, and that state Sen. Dan Hegeman played a key role in gaining approval for the ramp from the Missouri Department of Transportation.

McKim said he and other public- and private-sector leaders are working to put the pieces in place to make sure industrial growth in the Maryville area is sustainable over the foreseeable future.

“We’re hopeful that it is,” he said. “What’s been nice is that it’s not just one company. A wide number of manufacturers have been part of this — there have been new lines, new buildings, renovations.”

With regard to the Site Selection rankings, McKim said his goal has been for Maryville to place within the top 100, a mark that has now been exceeded for the past two years.

“It says a lot about manufacturers and the workforce in our area,” he said.

Cities sharing the 18th spot with Maryville include Waycross, Georgia; Angola, Indiana; Burlington Iowa/Illinois; Mayfield, Kentucky; Morgan City and Opelousas, Louisiana; Norfolk, Nebraska; Fremont, Ohio; New Philadelphia-Dover, Ohio; Salem, Ohio; Greenwood, South Carolina; Tullahoma-Manchester, Tennessee; and Danville, Virginia.

Each of the above cities, along with Maryville, posted five eligible projects during the survey period.

The top micropolitan in the nation, according to the magazine, is Findlay, Ohio, which reported 22 eligible projects.

 — Staff writer Tom Pinney contributed to this story. 

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Staff writer Anthony Brown has officially retired. For more information about this story, contact the newspaper at news@maryvilledailyforum.com or by calling 660-562-2424.