Archive for Friday, July 27, 2007

Corporate citizenship

Although the efforts of some Kansas companies won’t magically fix two struggling communities, they deserve recognition for doing the right thing.

July 27, 2007

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A couple of good corporate citizens have made some laudable efforts toward aiding the recovery of two Kansas communities from recent natural disasters.

But, even with the help of these businesses and the efforts of many other private and public entities, a tornado in Greensburg and flooding in Coffeyville likely have changed those two communities forever.

Last week, Dillons and Kwik Shop announced plans to reopen a combination grocery and convenience store in Greensburg. The store will not be as big as the Dillons store that was destroyed in the May 4 tornado, but it will expand an existing Kwik Shop to include fresh meat and produce, frozen foods and other groceries.

Dillons and Kwik Shop, which both are based in Hutchinson and owned by the Kroger Co. of Cincinnati, certainly deserve praise for making this commitment to rebuilding Greensburg. Dillons operated the only grocery store in the city before the storm and its decision to rebuild even a smaller store will be a key factor in encouraging residents to remain in the town. Even so, the community has lost its larger Dillons, which will be an economic blow.

Meanwhile, a Coffeyville refinery that accidentally spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into floodwaters in that town earlier this month has offered to buy damaged homes for 110 percent of their pre-flood market value. Like Dillons, Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing deserves credit for doing the right thing for the community, especially in light of the role its refinery played in aggravating the flood damage.

The area covered by the company's offer includes about 300 homes and roughly 50 blocks on the east side of Coffeyville. The refinery has no plans for the land after it is cleaned up and said it could make it available for public use if requested.

It's a good deal for many homeowners, but what will the results be for Coffeyville? Will everyone sell their homes or will some continue to live scattered across the area limiting its later use for a park or other public purpose? Will people who sell their homes be able to find other housing in Coffeyville or will they choose to move elsewhere?

It would be great if the home purchases spurred a building boom in Coffeyville, but it seems likely that many people who sell their homes wouldn't be able to afford new construction to replace them. Perhaps the city could make reclaimed lots available to those who want to rebuild.

The continuing plight of Greensburg and Coffeyville, in no way, diminishes the efforts of these companies and many other corporate and charitable groups trying to help these struggling communities. It points out, however, the monumental impact of these natural disasters and the continued commitment and investment - from both private business and government sources - that will be needed to get these communities back on their feet.

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