Top 150: 2020 leaves its marks (and not all bad) on KC’s biggest private companies

By  –  Staff Writer, Kansas City Business Journal

The pandemic profoundly shaped this year’s Top 150 Private Companies List, with gains and losses following broad industry trends.

From an overall revenue standpoint, banks and homebuilders/remodelers had a good year. Commercial construction-related companies, travel and hospitality regressed.

Of course, fees from federal stimulus programs, which generally helped keep the economy afloat, drove much of banks’ growth. But one move by regulators delivered the biggest boost for the industry and the rest of the economy: allowing banks to be more lenient on shutdown-caused late payments.

“If we had to go through and begin the classification process on loans that were affected by Covid, we would have ended up destroying the U.S. economy,” said Josh Rowland, vice chairman and CEO of Kansas City-based Lead Bank. “You would have seen bank foreclosures, then properties would have lost value because of fire sales, and all of a sudden it would just be a complete disaster.”

Understandably after months of work from home, residential real estate is booming despite rising raw material costs and soaring home prices from an inventory shortage.

Tony Conant, president of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors, said higher prices aren’t scaring away buyers. He said many agents had a record year in 2020 — and it isn’t slowing down.

Amy DeLuna Huhmann, a broker sales associate at Platinum Realty, said listings will get 10-15 offers within an hour of going up. That prompts buyers to pony up more money. In one case, she had a buyer offer $71,000 over the $330,000 asking price.

Home improvements also boomedas more people embraced the WFH life, said Richard Wetzel, a partner at Kansas City-based Centric. His company’s home renovation business doubled in 2020.

“People were quarantining or spending more time in their houses, and they look around and decide they want a new kitchen and a backyard patio pool,” Wetzel said. “If they weren’t moving, they were reinvesting in their home, especially in recreational areas.”

Commercial construction told a different story, with lots of projects put on hold, especially in hospitality and health care. But Paul Neidlein, Midwest region president for JE Dunn Construction, said stalled work has started stirring to life again.

Material shortages and delays present the biggest problem, driving up costs, Neidlein said. He expects prices to drop this year as manufacturers gear up to full speed again.

Other notables on this year’s Top 150 include Overland Park-based quick-service restaurant franchisee KBP Investments becoming one of only 11 area private companies in the $1 billion revenue club. Gun safe producer SA Consumer Products nearly doubled revenue this year to $63 million. WellSky rode acquisitions to revenue growth of nearly $141 million. Rural fiber company Conexon doubled revenue to $30.7 million.

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