If the good folks at Edgemoor, the selected developers for the new terminal at Kansas City International airport, do not already regret winning the contract, that day will come soon enough.

As part of the deal, Edgemoor signed off on what is called a “Community Benefits Agreement.”  As reported by KCUR, this package of initiatives essentially puts Edgemoor in the social service business. The company is expected to provide free or subsidized transportation for those working on the airport as well as licensed childcare, an on-site health clinic, and workforce training. Edgemoor has also promised “expedited payment” for at least some airport workers.

Edgemoor did not know it was getting into the social work business.

One suspects there have been many rationales offered for why the deal was made part of the package, but the real one was to secure the support of the minority community and those benefiting from MBE And WBE set-asides.

In December 2017, Councilman Lee Barnes, who is black, threatened to kill the deal. “I personally don’t think they’ve made the commitment to this city that requires us to move forward with (them on) a project that is this substantial,” said Barnes at the time.

Fortunately for the future of business in Kansas City, the Federal Aviation Administration has told Edgemoor that airport revenue cannot be used for nearly half of the “benefits” in the “Community Benefits Agreement.”

One objectionable item that KCUR cited was the Love Thy Neighbor program. The program has not the slightest connection to aviation, designed as it is to help older people with minor home repairs.

“There does not appear to be a nexus between this contribution and a financial benefit to the airport terminal program and this does not constitute a minimal charitable contribution for support of community activities or charitable purposes,” said the FAA in a letter.

To its credit, the FAA raised issues with the agreement’s special arrangements for  minority-owned businesses. According to KCUR, “The letter said these services needed to be available to the all firms and contractors on the project.”

It has become standard operating procedure in Kansas City for the movers and shakers in the minority community to move and shake when a large new opportunity presents itself. If not moved, Edgemoor has surely been shaken.

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