Want big bucks? Be a consultant in Missouri

29 April 2019 Consulting.us 3 min. read

Consulting firms hired by city and county government officials in Missouri are currently enjoying a financial boom. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are currently spent on consultancies for their expertise — expertise that government officials simply don’t have, according to an article by KRCG, a local CBS news affiliate which services the Columbia-Jefferson City, Missouri market.

The city of Columbia, for example, recently wrote a $25,000 check to an unnamed consultancy, seeking a city manager who could help create more affordable housing. In addition to housing, Columbia officials have also sought consultants’ advice on projects relating to transportation, parking, and economic development. Columbia also self-operates utilities and an airport, which sometimes require external assistance.

“Just by the very nature of being so broad and encompassing, it may seem like we are hiring more consultants than other cities where the ratio is probably about even. You have to compare the apples to apples in this case,” Steve Sapp, city of Columbia spokesman, said in the article.

Want big bucks? Be a consultant in Missouri

The city of Fulton, meanwhile, spends between $75,000 to $100,000 each year on consultancies, according to Bill Johnson, Fulton city administrator. The number may seem large, but in the end it is more cost-efficient. On-staff specialists are extremely expensive, whereas a consultant acts as a “temporary expert,” freeing full-time staff to manage day-to-day tasks.

“[Full-time staff] may have some expertise, but it takes away from their day-to-day job and they don’t do that particular type of work all the time, so you bring in someone who has the greater experience in that,” Richard Sheets, Missouri Municipal League spokesman, said in the article.

The case of Missouri and the rash of consultants is no outlier. Cities large and small often rely on consultancies to assist on civil issues. A consultant in January revealed an expansion of the runway at New Haven, Connecticut’s Tweed-New Haven Airport stood to bring in billions to the city’s economy. The expansion would allow airlines access to the airport, potentially increasing the number of destinations reachable from New Haven, as well as lowering fares.

In Cedar Falls, Iowa, consulting firm WGI performed a survey of 2,600 respondents and observed the city’s parking situation for nearly four months. The results? WGI revealed the city was in desperate need of more parking spaces, as well as a dedicated parking structure, such as a parking garage. The University of Iowa also hired three external consultants to aid it in its decision to choose a company to take over its utilities system. 

Lastly, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board in February hired consulting team UtiliWorks to investigate residents’ complaints regarding higher-than-usual water bills.

Related: Anchorage brings in consultants to review troubled Port of Alaska Project