A large influx of capital for businesses to become more energy efficient should be on its way to Jackson County.

The Rockwood Group, based in St. Louis, this week got the blessing of the Jackson County Legislature to operate here under Missouri’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program. That opens the door for private funding for projects that save energy and money.

Rockwood CEO Scott Zajac said his group works with large investors, mainly insurance companies, looking for long-term investments. Under PACE, the estimated benefit of a project has to exceed the cost. Rockwood lends mainly to commercial customers, and local government has to sign off on each project.

“We need local oversight and local control,” Zajac said.

He used this example: He installed a geothermal system in his house, reducing energy costs to almost nil despite a high cost up front. When he sold the note, the note on the energy system had to be paid off.

But there’s another way to do this and make it more palatable for someone looking to stretch out that cost, with its permanent benefits, over several years. Under PACE, those payments are in effect a tax lien.

“Why not let that cost run with the property” no matter who owns it, he said.

Rockwood says it could bring hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to Jackson County, helping the environment, cutting energy bills and raising property values.

“I just don’t see a downside for Jackson County,” said Legislator Dennis Waits, D-Independence.

 

Capitol concerns

Missouri legislators within weeks with be pre-filing bills for 2018, and the Mid-America Regional Council is highlighting several issues, with a focus on two that the General Assembly has refused to address for years.

MARC, which represents local governments across the metro area, stresses that state funding for roads and bridges – not to mention other transportation – remains “insufficient.” It suggests “strong consideration” of the findings and recommendations of the 21st Century Transportation System Task Force, which has held meetings across the state this year but not yet released any recommendations.

The other area of focus is getting the state to let cities and counties go to their voters and ask that cell-phone users help pay for 911 service. Four out of five 911 calls are via cellphone, but Missouri is the only state in which those users pay nothing toward that service. Legislation to change that is introduced every year, and it’s shot down every year.

Other priorities: Think twice before passing on more costs to local government, crack down on texting while driving, “maintain and expand” Amtrak service in the state – and consider “equity in retail sales tax collections for online retail purchases.” Put another way, have a tax policy that treats local stores the same as online stores, erasing what is now a significant inequity. The General Assembly has declined to look seriously at that question, arguing with some merit that the answer probably lies with Congress. Good luck with that.

 

Quick hits

The Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce is holding an after-hours networking event today. It’s from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Minsky’s Pizza, 2201 N.W. Missouri 7. … St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs has won an award for safety. The Leapfrog Group is a non-profit that evaluates hospitals. It looked at preventable harm and medical errors at 2,600 hospitals and gave St. Mary’s an A. … Rob Harrington, executive director of the Grain Valley Partnership, graduated recently from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Missouri Leadership program. The idea is to identify current and emerging leaders across the state. Participants traveled the state, met leaders, and took part in such things as panel discussions and service projects.

 

-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business reporter and editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.