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City Council Workshop Brings Economic Development Expenditures

City Council Workshop Brings Economic Development Expenditures

December 10, 2010

By Buck Sommerkamp

Don Nissanka of Exergonix speaks to the City Council.
Tribune Photo/Fred Poese

Lee’s Summit City Council members took the phrase “open for business” and demonstrated it proudly Thursday night as two proposed economic development expenditures were approved.
City manager Steve Arbo presented two items to the Council.

The first item included spending $600,000 on airport infrastructure to bring an anonymous national tenant to the area. With the promise of 85 new jobs, in approximately 15,000 square feet of new and existing office space, the plan would allow the company to add a six-plane hangar on the east side of the airport with good highway access and no parking issues. The plan, according to economic development officials, met the Airport Business Plan recommendations, conforms to the approved Preliminary Development Plan, and would increase property tax revenues for the city.

The anonymous firm is seeking proposals from other communities and looked for conceptual approval by January 1, 2011. The target date for the occupancy of the hangar is March 2012, although employees of the company could relocate to Lee’s Summit prior to the occupancy.

While investing $975,000 initially for public improvements, the city would seek MoDOT/FAA reimbursement for $356,000 in eligible costs, leaving a net investment for the city of $618,000. Examining the return on investment, the city projected $12,000 a year in additional personal property taxes from six aircraft, a minimum annual payroll of $3.4 million, and markup on fuel sales.

Funding for the airport infrastructure project will come from the Economic Opportunity Funding Reserve to design and construct public improvements, attract the national firm/employer to invest in Lee’s Summit, and potentially attract additional investors to the Lee’s Summit airport.

The Economic Opportunity Fund currently contains $2.5 million, and was set aside for projects such as these, according to city officials.

The airport measure passed, with Councilman Joseph Spallo casting the only dissenting vote.

A second item presented by Arbo to the Council was an economic development project for the U.S. 50/291 Corridor proposed by Exergonix, a startup company founded by local serial entrepreneur Don Nissanka. Exergonix provides a lithium-ion battery storage solution to the issue of “wasted energy” generated by wind and solar power. Exergonix is headquartered in Lee’s Summit and has operations in Tucson, San Francisco, Ottawa Canada, Seoul South Korea, and Prague Czech Republic.

Nissanka addressed the Council and described how Exergonix could provide peak power collected during off-peak times and stored in lithium-ion batteries. He also explained that the plant would not be involved with any hazardous materials or chemicals; the most important safety issue, according to Nissanka, is the amount of electricity going through the system.

“Think of the windmill generating power at 3:00 a.m.,” Nissanka explained to the Council. The Exergonix solution provides the ability to store energy and bring it back when needed, 24 hours a day.

The company is interested in adding 275,000 square feet of new construction to the now-vacant Pfizer property at 291 and 50 Highway. More than 30 acres of extra land could be used by “spin off” users near the plant.

Council members unanimously agreed to spend approximately $1.5 million from the Opportunity Fund to help jump start the project, and promised additional tax abatements and incentives to Exergonix as the plant began operation and construction.

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