UPDATE: KC suburb disputes 'fastest-dying town' designation

Sunday, December 14, 2008 | 4:53 p.m. CST; updated 5:19 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 14, 2008

GRANDVIEW — Grandview officials are hotly contesting Forbes magazine's recent designation of the Kansas City suburb as one of "America's Fastest-Dying Towns."

Grandview City Administrator Cory Smith said he would have liked to see someone from the New York-based financial publication visit Grandview before the list was published last week.

"I don't think they've ever been here, and if you're going to potentially destroy a place with a story, you might want to go there and take a tour first," Smith said.

Forbes said in the article that while the woes of large cities are well-known, many smaller cities have been in economic decline since 2000. So to find those, the magazine used data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, which used findings gathered between 2005 and 2007 to rank cities with populations between 20,000 and 65,000.

The study's four metrics were income growth, the rate of domestic in-migration, change in poverty rate, and the percentage of residents who have a bachelor's degree or higher.

Bensenville, Ill., a Chicago area community near O'Hare International Airport, ranked No. 1 on the list of "America's Fastest-Dying Cities."

Others on the dying list include Hamtramck, Mich.; Austintown, Ohio; Asheboro, N.C.; Kokomo, Ind.; and Spanish Lake, a St. Louis suburb.

Forbes said Grandview's poverty rate has doubled while incomes have remained flat and have actually fallen when adjusted for inflation.

The magazine went on to say that Grandview's housing market has deteriorated, with prices falling 10 percent in the past year to $78,000 at the median level, off from $122,000 in 2003.

Smith said Grandview, like a lot of cities, is hurting because of the slumping economy.

The city has failed to land "big box" retailers and seemingly gotten beat by commercial development that landed in nearby Belton and Raymore. And there has long been a lack of high-end housing. Also, the Grandview School District has struggled to meet benchmarks.

But Smith said he would be happy to show off a vibrant city with more than 600 businesses and 11,000 employees, including 14 places with more than 100 workers. He said he would then drive his New York guest past seven newly planned subdivisions, including one with more than 700 lots.

Kim Curtis, president of the Grandview Area Chamber of Commerce, questioned Forbes' methodology.

"We have had no major plant closings," Curtis said. "We've added businesses. We are building homes. Our economic base is diversified so that a decline in a single industry does not hurt us like it would for an auto-manufacturing town."




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