Give Jeanie Lauer credit for speaking a plain truth.

Give Jeanie Lauer credit for speaking a plain truth.

The freshman Republican legislator from Blue Springs was at a Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce gathering on Friday, discussing the various incentives cities use to lure new retailers and restaurants.

Too often, those businesses just move a couple blocks or a couple of miles to get into tax-advantaged spaces. Look at Hobby Lobby moving from U.S. 40 and Noland (in Kansas City) to the Bass Pro Shops area (in Independence). Look at the new Independence Golden Corral, which meant the closure of the old Blue Springs Golden Corral. There’s a long list.

“And it’s not creating jobs,” Lauer said. “It’s not helping economic development. It’s just draining the (development incentive) well as far as what’s available out there.”

Lauer seems to be adding her voice to those concerned about what Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders has called “a race to the bottom” as local governments try to outdo each other, with the ultimate effect of a reduced tax base to entice a business that was coming to the area anyway.

The St. Louis metro area, Lauer suggested, has its act more together, with a unified set of incentives, meaning Big Boxes R Us can’t play Independence off against Lee’s Summit, Leawood and Liberty. That idea makes sense, and lots of local officials sound as if they want to agree, but who is going to make the first move to put this into effect?

Of course, St. Louis doesn’t have that nettlesome state line running through the heart of the metro. State and local leaders on the Missouri side of that line have been speaking in tones ranging from concern to alarm over Kansas communities’ abilities to poach companies and jobs from the Missouri side – a problem many blame on what they see as that state’s better incentives.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know how Kansas is able to be affording the incentives they are offering,” state Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Blue Springs, said at the chamber luncheon.

Missouri, she said, has to have good incentives in place.

“They’re (Kansas) playing the game and basically raiding the cookie jar,” Solon said.

Missouri officials are talking about a thorough review of business incentives and related programs, and Lauer said she’s been asked to be a part of that – presumably after she catches her breath when the General Assembly wraps up its 2011 session in mid-May.

Perkins is coming back

Perkins Restaurant and Bakery is coming back to Independence, at the site of the former Lone Star Steakhouse, 3939 S. Bolger Road, across from the Wal-Mart just off 39th Street near Missouri 291.

“We’re projected probably sometime mid-summer,” said franchisee Jim Rahfaldt, who also has two Perkins locations in Sioux City, Iowa, and one in Millford, Iowa.

Rahfaldt used to work for the company, at the corporate level, in the Kansas City area and said he saw an opportunity in Independence. “So I know the area,” he said. Rahfaldt said it will be a family-run restaurant.

The company has 475 locations in United States and Canada, including six in the metro area. About one-third are corporately owned, and two-thirds are franchised. Perkins used to have a reasonably busy location on Noland Road a few blocks north of Truman High School, but it’s been a parking lot for several years. The old Blue Springs location also has been closed for some time.