by Marisa Gray
Business West has had a busy and productive year. We have lived up to our motto “We Solve Problems.”
That was very apparent when Business West appeared before the Unified Government Commission as an advocate for small businesses. Let me cite two examples. Last December, when it appeared that Wyandotte County might lose its professional baseball team, the Kansas City T-Bones, Business West, along with other community organizations, were quick to come to the aid of one of its members, Adam Ehlert. He and his family own the baseball team. Business West urged the Unified Commissioners to purchase the ballpark. The commissioners passed the purchase agreement unanimously and Wyandotte County kept its ball team.
The other example was our support of Mirror Inc., a nonprofit organization that will provide counseling for those suffering from alcohol and drug addictions. Despite the objections of certain neighbors, Business West supported Mirror Inc. The service will soon be available at the Salvation Army site near 65th Street and State Avenue.
Property taxes are always a concern for small businesses. For the past seven years, Business West has visited all units of Wyandotte County local government, urging elected officials to hold the line on property taxes. Looking ahead to the coming year, Business West notes that the Unified Government and the Community College have kept the property tax rate the same for next year. The Kansas City, Kan., and Turner school districts have lowered their rates substantially.
Business West continues to call on State Avenue landowners to promote its proposed Community Improvement District. Once approval from 55 percent of the landowners, by acreage and assessed value, is obtained, the CID would have three core functions — appearance, security and marketing. The Unified Government has done an excellent job in repaving State Avenue and 78th Street. The medians, once ugly, are now attractively landscaped. Personnel from the CID would pick up debris in the right-of-way. Security personnel would cooperate with West Patrol, College and Community Police officers, serving as their “eyes and ears.” Business West sponsors the State Avenue Corridor Planning and Marketing Committee that meets monthly to address the concerns of area landowners and businesses.
Since its inception, Business West has had an excellent relationship with the Community College. Business West has supported the business solutions series that the college has offered small businesses. Business West is establishing an endowment arm that will raise funds for college scholarships.
Residential development has always been a concern of Business West. Last summer, Business West convened a meeting with Mayor Mark Holland and builder-developers to discuss concerns. The Kansas City Board of Public Utilities also supported this meeting.
Business West is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, serving on its Legislative and K-7 committees. It is also a member of the Congressional Forum. Business West also cooperates with the chamber and other neighborhood business associations in co-sponsoring candidate forums.
Business West recently held its annual membership meeting at a member’s home in the Piper community.
The officers for the coming year were elected. They are Marisa Gray, president; Jane Winkler Philbrook, president-elect; and Lesley Johnson, treasurer. Directors elected for a two-year term were DeeAnn Behrens., Melissa Bynum, Tim DeWitt, Joe Maderak, Rusty Roberts and Don Scaro. Chuck Stites will serve an unexpired one-year term; Murrel Bland will continue as executive director. Those directors continuing to serve the second year of their two-year terms are Sheryl Becker, Matt Browning and Pat Sedlock.
Nancy Winkler, who is retiring as the owner of Winkler’s Diamonds, received the first-ever Joe Maderak award for outstanding community service. She is a past-president of Business West and headed its retail committee.
Marisa Gray is president of Business West.