For nearly 90 years, Springfield-based BKD has been a pillar of accounting services, not just in Missouri but throughout the Midwest and Southeastern states—14 in all. Its full range of financial-services solutions runs well past accounting for mom-and-pop stores or global conglomerates: BKD also offers wealth advisory, corporate finance and insurance services through its subsidiaries, and all of that rings a bell with Ingram’s readers, who bestow the Gold. The Silver slot is filled by KPMG, the Big 4 global audit, tax and advisory giant operating in 87 offices nationwide—and in 151 other countries. For the Bronze, readers vote in CBIZ, with its accounting, tax and advisory services.


With all due respect to the late Marshall McLuhan, the medium is not the message: The message is the message. That fundamental distinction underpins Trozzolo Communications Group’s guidance to clients with advertising, branding, public relations and digital expertise, and the firm’s steady growth attests to the strength of that approach. Readers resoundingly agree, according Gold status. Fast-growing Meers Advertising, which repositioned itself after the economy stalled in 2008 and has blossomed by wedding message, brand and platform for its clients, rises up to claim the Silver. And Muller Bressler Brown, serving some of Kansas City’s biggest corporate clients as well as national brands, earns the Bronze.


Masters of all things in the world of digital branding, VML has grown from a Kansas City ad agency into a global presence in on-line marketing and development of social-media strategies. Readers agree that the firm’s combination of account management, channel activation, project management, strategic planning, research and analytics and other services are Gold-plated. Barkley, our Silver winner with the commanding presence in the Crossroads district, serves big names locally and nationally, and turns 50 next year. And no longer small but a thriving fast-growth agency, Gragg Advertising takes home the Bronze for its work in the digital marketing, analytics and lead source sector.


What makes a Gold-winning architectural firm in Best of Business Kansas City? The numbers say it all for Gastinger Walker Harden + Bee Triplett Buck: 85 percent of its work is repeat business; 75 clients have contracted with the firm for at least 25 projects. The firm has recognized the contributions of two longtime principals by adding them to the nameplate. Populous, a global firm with a shining reputation in stadium design (think Wimbledon and the U.S. Open digs, new football facilities at Baylor and Texas A&M, etc.) snags the Silver this year. And the Bronze goes to Helix Architecture + Design, which believes the best way to get the design right is to focus not on the building itself, but on the people who have to use it.


Celebrating its centennial this year, UMB Bank emerges with the Gold, reclaiming a position it last held with readers in 2004. Now a financial-services company with a broad range of products, UMB boasts 121 banking centers in seven states from Arizona to Illinois. Its chief competition for market share in the Kansas City region, Commerce Bank, will turn 150 in 2015, and snags this year’s Silver, but remains No. 1 in size as ranked by assets. And Country Club Bank, a young pup by comparison, is our Bronze winner; CCB has been addressing the banking needs of residents and business executives here for more than half a century.


Engineering is a center of excellence for Kansas City, so asking readers to pick their favorites is like asking Ben and Jerry what their preferred flavor is. This time around, the taste of Gold belongs to Burns & McDonnell, the employee-owned global engineering firm that is not only big, but fast-growing; its revenues are up 50 percent in the past four years. A bit larger still, yet also making huge growth strides as the national and global economies contiue to improve, is Silver-winner Black & Veatch, nearly a century old and with roughly 10,000 employees working in 100 nations. And when it comes to structure, Bob D. Campbell & Co. specializes in a dozen structural engineering disciplines—with a reputation solid enough to earn Bronze. Hoorah for the little guy... in a darn big and competitive sector!


Specializing in all types of commercial construction has endeared Kelly Construction Group to our business-owning and executive readers, who respond with Gold-honors for this Overland Park firm. Centric Projects is making a name for itself with design and construction expertise, and its top-line growth mirrors the increasing level of esteem with readers who make it our Silver winner. Thanks to a surge in multi-family housing, the apartment-building specialists at Neighbors Construction are enjoying a construction resurgence—as well as Bronze-level accolades from our readers. Multi-family is not all they build.


Any contractor who wants to challenge J.E. Dunn Construction Co.’s grip on the Gold in this category had better plan on growing—a lot. More than five times the size of its nearest market competitor in terms of local employees, Dunn remains atop the list for each of the 14 years of the category. And not just for its expertise in all manner of commercial construction; the company is also a major force in corporate citizenship in this region. Family-owned A.L. Huber Construction bags the Silver with a reputation for quality that goes back 110 years. And picking up Bronze is McCownGordon Construction, which handles a diverse set of construction tasks from health-care settings and schools to the Sky Safari at the Kansas City Zoo and more.


Just as it does in residential realty, the name Reece carries massive weight with Ingram’s readers in this category, who say Reece Commercial has closed the deal on Gold honors this year. One reason for that is its heft: Reece Commercial can meet the needs of clients from small local companies to international businesses. Zimmer Real Estate Services, with roots in real-estate development here that go back more than a century, takes the Silver. And Bronze honors are shared by Copaken Brooks (which recently in-part aligned with Lane4 Property Group in a strategic move to complement each other’s strengths). Kessinger/Hunter and Co., which recently finished the first large-scale warehouse and distribution facility built on spec in this market in years.


NetStandard bills itself as a client’s means for transforming its information technology IT needs from “a painful cost center into a strategic business advantage.” The votes are in, and readers do indeed back up that assertion with a Gold certitude. Despite its late 2012 agreement to be acquired by UNICOM, global IT manager Versent Group is the pick for Silver honors. And processing the Bronze award is Accenture, another player on a global scale, serving clients in more than 120 countries.


If you send your office whites to Hangars Cleaners, they’ll come back green. Metaphorically speaking, of course; Hangars prides itself on exclusivity as the region’s most eco-friendly dry-cleaning services. Readers say we should color this south Kansas City company Gold. Bagging the Silver is Tide Dry Cleaners, with four area locations that have the power of a national chain and the technology of color-restoration processes on its side. Arrow Fabricare, in North Kansas City and Midtown, takes Bronze with its full range of cleaning and repair services.


Diane Forgy’s chauffeured limousine service, Overland Limousine—to the surprise of almost no one—claims yet another Gold. It gets there with exceptional local service and partnerships that can secure ground transportation for clients across the U.S. or around the world. Agenda: USA will get you there in style with transportation as well as event production and convention services, all good for Silver honors.And 10/10 Taxi, with $10 one-way fares on trips of up to five miles, generates enough support from operations in Johnson County and Wyandotte Counties, Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs to earn Bronze.


LifeTime Fitness, with locations in Lenexa and Overland Park, helps take the pain out of “no pain, no gain” workouts with an elegant array of amenities, from hot tubs to saunas—even masseuse services are available. It’s as good as Gold. Silver honors are split this year, with one share going to a newcomer, Title Boxing Club, where you can get your heart rate up in a ring-side motif, and 24-Hour Fitness, with fans who appreciate its range of fitness options and accessibility, with eight area locations. And Bronze goes to the Prairie Life Center in Overland Park and Olathe, featuring both individual and group fitness programs.


We certainly respect the collective judgment of Ingram’s readers, but the market is a powerful indicator of excellence, as well. That’s why Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City has more than 1 million customers, and stands as not just as the dominant market leader in this region, but as our Gold winner. Silver, meanwhile, goes to UnitedHealthcare, which also offers not just insurance, but medical-care options for small business and employer groups, individuals and families, Medicare patients, and those needing dental and pharmacy benefits. And our Bronze winner this year, Coventry Health Care, has operations in all 50 states, serving 5 million customers.


Reader ballots appear to perennially grant Gold status to Saint Luke’s Hospital, and this year is no exception. The Plaza-area complex is known for its cardiac and stroke treatment, as well as transplant programs, to name but a few. Neck-in-neck with Luke’s is our Silver honors University of Kansas Hospital, No. 1 in this market when ranked by admissions, and also known for its cardiac care, cancer treatment and many other specialties. And Shawnee Mission Medical Center, checking in with Bronze, still has the “new” showing on its recent expansion efforts on its broad campus in Merriam.


The Marriott Hotel–Downtown Kansas City—the largest in this market in terms of room count—checks in with Gold honors. With a much welcome recent renovation, the Dowtown Marriott offers perhaps the best hotel facilities to host guests for conventions downtown. But beyond size, ambience plays a role, as the Silver winner Raphael Hotel demonstrates. Its 126 rooms with views of the Country Club Plaza have generated a loyal fan base. In suburban Leawood, Aloft and its 156 rooms secure Bronze honors, sharing those with the InterContinental Hotel Kansas City, with dominant views of and access rto the Plaza.


Four biggest firms in Kansas City are recognized here, and making the case this year for Gold is Lathrop & Gage, well-known among its many practice concentrations for expertise in business law. Polsinelli, P.C., rebranded with a shorter name this year and beginning to occupy its new headquarters near the Country Club Plaza, earns Silver status. A tie for Bronze goes to Shook, Hardy & Bacon, perhaps best known for product liability defense, and Stinson Morrison Hecker, where they’re masters of business law and more.


Let’s start here with Ryan Lawn & Tree, our readers’ choice for Gold honors, perhaps because founder Larry Ryan developed his sense for customer service after 10 years in the restaurant business. Many may know Suburban Lawn & Garden for its sprawling and well-stocked south KC retail space for lawn and garden needs, but lawn maintenance is a key aspect of what they do, too, and they do it well enough to earn Silver. Olathe-based Aspen Lawn & Landscape says quality, integrity and strong work ethic have produced a 97 percent customer retention rate. The latter figure alone is surely deserving of the Bronze honors, which the company shares here with Hermes Landscaping, offering such varied services as commercial and residential work, snow removal and sprinkler system installation.


Nothing attests to the rise of Overland Park as a commercial counterbalance to Kansas City quite like the morning rush hour into Johnson County—or the emergence of the Overland Park Convention Center, a repeat Gold designate in this category. The market leader in square footage is our Silver honoree: the expansive Kansas City Convention Center, home to H. Roe Bartle Hall and the largest single piece of exhibit space in the region, capable of accommodating 20,000 people. Bronze goes back to an Overland Park venue, the Ritz Charles Event & Conference Facility, with 17,000 square feet of combined meeting space and seating for 1,200 in its largest room.


How good is Roy Inman Photography? Not just Gold-honors good, but Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame good; Inman was a 2010 inductee. The award for Silver goes to Dan White Photography; like Inman, Dan White had longstanding newspaper service before setting up his own shop. And even if you don’t know our Bronze honoree, you’ve likely seen the images produced by David Morris Photography on behalf of major advertisers.


John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit is the hands-down winner of our Gold award in this category. With nearly 1,900 units it dwarfs its competitors. Comparatively intimate Bishop Spencer Place near the Country Club Plaza, our Silver winner with a strong following despite—or maybe because of—its smaller capacity. Bronze goes to Tallgrass Creek, undergoing an expansion this year of more than 100 rooms, which would bring its capacity to a little more than 400 units.


In the fiercely competitive wireless communications sector, Gold goes this year to Verizon Wireless, offering smart phones, basic phones, tablets and accessories, plus content channels. The hometown favorite Sprint takes the Silver back to its sprawling Overland Park headquarters. And AT&T logs in with the Bronze for its mobile phones, service plans and accessories.


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