An engineering firm moving from Topeka will be the first tenant for west LawrenceÃ¢ÂÂs massive Wakarusa Corporate Centre.
Hoss & Brown Engineers Inc. confirmed Monday it would move its corporate headquarters to the business park near 18th Street and Wakarusa Drive, bringing about 10 jobs paying an average of $50,000 a year. It has been in Topeka for 51 years.
Ã¢ÂÂThe main reason weÃ¢ÂÂre moving is we have found it extremely difficult to hire the type of people weÃ¢ÂÂre looking to hire here in Topeka,Ã¢ÂÂ said Pete Laughlin, Hoss & Brown president. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not trying to say anything negative about Topeka, because it is a great place to live and raise a family, but it just doesnÃ¢ÂÂt offer a lot to the 20-year-olds who are graduating from college.Ã¢ÂÂ
LawrenceÃ¢ÂÂs college-town atmosphere and proximity to Kansas City should improve the companyÃ¢ÂÂs recruiting efforts, he said.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂve had recruiting agencies say, Ã¢ÂÂ'Lo and behold, you might be able to do a little better in Lawrence,Ã¢ÂÂ and weÃ¢ÂÂve heard that a couple of times when we were interviewing people,Ã¢ÂÂ Laughlin said. Ã¢ÂÂWe had applicants tell us they wished we were in Lawrence.Ã¢ÂÂ
The companyÃ¢ÂÂs Topeka office employs nine people who will move to the Lawrence office when it is completed within the next 90 days. Laughlin said the company expected the office to grow to 15 or 17 employees within the next five years.
Ã¢ÂÂWe have some very good niche markets,Ã¢ÂÂ Laughlin said. Ã¢ÂÂWe canÃ¢ÂÂt take care of all the demand we have right now because we donÃ¢ÂÂt have enough people.Ã¢ÂÂ
The company, which also has a Kansas City office that employs 15 people, specializes in mechanical and electrical engineering for large projects such as schools, hospitals, retirement communities and office buildings.
Greg DiVilbiss, a partner with the development company that owns Wakarusa Corporate Centre, said the engineering company would fit well with the high-tech and life sciences firms the development is trying to attract.
Ã¢ÂÂWe want to be the home to the high-paying jobs Lawrence is looking for, so this fits in well with that,Ã¢ÂÂ DiVilbiss said.
The company will occupy only 3,400 square feet of the 55,000-square-foot building at the site. But after searching for companies to locate in the park for more than a year, DiVilbiss is thrilled the development has landed its first tenant.
Ã¢ÂÂWith the economy, the terrorists, the corporate scandals, it has been wave after wave of bad news,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂCompanies just kind of wanted to wait and see where things were heading.
Ã¢ÂÂBut we see the market loosening up and we think weÃ¢ÂÂll see more activity. We think this is the first sign of big things to happen. I subscribe to the momentum theory: Once you get the ball rolling it is hard to stop.Ã¢ÂÂ
In addition to the 55,000-square-foot building already constructed, DiVilbiss and his company have city approval to build three more buildings on the site that could add approximately 300,000 square feet of office and laboratory space to the development.