Archive for Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Candidate brings perspective on job creation

March 3, 2009

Editor's Note: This is one story in a series profiling the eight candidates running for City Commission.


Lance Johnson

Age: 38

Address: 1730 Bobwhite Drive

Family: Wife, Jennifer; three children, ages 8, 6 and 1.

Occupation: Owner of civil engineering firm

Substantial business interests: Johnson lists ownership interests in the Peridian Group, where he serves as president of the corporation. He also lists an ownership interest in 12 separate real estate investment companies. His holdings also include an ownership interest in JDC Construction, and Blue Sky Mortgage Co. In addition to his home, Johnson also owns two vacant lots in the 900 block of Robinson Court, two investment properties in the 4900 block of Stoneback Drive, one investment property in 2400 block of Princeton Boulevard, one investment property in the 700 block of Arkansas, and one investment property in the 1500 block of Legend Trail. He also owns a minority interest in the Lawrence-based company Hiper Technology.

Lance Johnson remembers the celebrations growing up in Hays.

There, where the wind blows strong and the water runs weak, you didn’t have to win a national championship to get the locals excited. In Hays, the community scorecard was a bit broader than in Lawrence.

“When a community like Hays got something new, it was a big deal,” Johnson said. “When we got an Applebee’s, it was a big deal. It was something we celebrated.”

That leaves Johnson — who is one of eight candidates running for Lawrence City Commission — sounding an unfamiliar campaign theme in these parts: In at least one way, he wants Lawrence to be a little bit more like western Kansas.

“Growing up out there gave me a definite appreciation for jobs and opportunities,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have a major metro area nearby like Lawrence does to provide jobs. If somebody moved to Hays, they were moving there to work there.”

Johnson — who is in the growth business daily as the owner of a civil engineering firm that specializes in development plans — thinks Lawrence has fallen into a trap when it comes to understanding how a community grows.

“When I first moved here, I was guilty for awhile of thinking that the businesses were just here,” Johnson said. “But one of the main reasons I’m running is that I think we need to do a better job of selling ourselves.

“I’m convinced that you can never take for granted opportunities, and I think Lawrence has done some of that.”

At the dinner table

The talk of opportunity — or the lack thereof — was a frequent topic of conversation around the Johnson dinner table growing up. Johnson’s father owned an asphalt and concrete paving company in Hays.

“A lot of the dinner conversation was about whether we got a bid or lost a bid,” Johnson said. “I learned early on that you always have to be looking for opportunities. I remember him having to lay people off when work was slow.”

As he got older, Johnson ended up getting an even closer view of the process. As a teenager he worked for his father’s company, running equipment that ranged from a cement truck to a simple shovel.

“I loved being out on a project, seeing the equipment moving,” Johnson said. “You can touch it and feel it.”

Johnson, 38, has followed in his father’s footsteps as an entrepreneur. Well, sort of. His early experiences did convince him that his business shouldn’t involve some types of work.

“Pouring concrete is probably one of the toughest jobs you will ever want to do,” Johnson said.

Since 1998, Johnson — who has both an undergraduate and master’s degree in engineering from Kansas University — has been an owner of The Peridian Group, a Lawrence-based civil engineering firm that employs 21 people. The firm designs roads, sewer systems, subdivisions and other similar pieces of infrastructure for developers and municipalities.

The business has given Johnson the opportunity to deal directly with City Hall. It is not uncommon for his company to bid on some city projects or to represent developers who are seeking approval from city commissioners. Johnson said he will abstain from votes where his company is competing for a city job or representing a client before the City Commission.

But the job has helped him form opinions on how the city conducts business, especially when it comes to welcoming new business.

“I think we have a pretty good process, but I think politics ends up hijacking the process,” Johnson said. “When a project is taken into the city, there is almost an immediate reaction of why this isn’t good enough, instead of how we can make this work for the city.”

The issues

Johnson said he intends to spend about 90 percent of his time on the campaign trail talking about the need for job creation. He’s put together a five-point plan for attracting new jobs to the community.

The plan includes creating a more welcoming tone at City Hall, offering incentives to companies with growth potential, building a better working relationship with KU, ensuring that the infrastructure for growth is in place, and working to attract companies that have sustainable business and environmental practices.

Johnson said without job growth, he fears the community will begin pushing residents away because homeowners will be paying for too much of the services the city provides.

“We’re already too much of a bedroom community,” Johnson said. “Too much of our tax base relies on homeownership. We have to shift some of that over to business and industry.”

In other issues, Johnson said:

• He could not rule out increasing tax rates to make up for gaps in the city’s budget.

• He believes cuts to some social service programs and some city services will be necessary, unless residents agree to some sort of tax increase.

“Would the community support raising taxes to avoid some of these cuts?” Johnson asked. “I don’t know. Could I support that? Maybe, but I want to hear from the citizens first.”

— City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362. Visit his Town Talk blog at


AJ_Hawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I see that the Peridian Group currently employs 21 people. I wonder how many it employed when their office was on Rockledge Drive?

fairplay 9 years, 2 months ago

parrotuya, you are just droning on with the same ol' same ol'. Bozo, Log and Merril will be on here any second to say the same thing: Developturds Republicrats Evil Henchmen Compton et. al

why don't you weigh in on job creation? Do we need it or not? If so, how do YOU propose we create it if Johnson is so wrong?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years, 2 months ago


This is Lawrence, where somehow we believe that if we hike the minimum wage to $20 an hour, we will also simultaneously create new jobs. It's the new math.

Michael Capra 9 years, 2 months ago

Im all for jobs to the area no one has brought any jobs yet

truckfan 9 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

ConstantlyAmazed 9 years, 2 months ago

His campaign does seem to be very transparent. We need more job opportunities, and that’s what he will focus on. That’s the message I take away from it. Sold.

Wellington 9 years, 2 months ago

He has got a plan. None of the other candidates have a clear cut plan other than bashing city hall. Locally and nationally it is not the time to sit back and be judgmental, it is time to move forward together. Those who don’t want to come will be left behind, you know who you are.

I don’t know why anyone who has associations with the real estate business is painted as the bad guy. That is the only thing that we all have in common, the location of our real estate, which is Lawrence, that is it. For the most part we are all property owners, if you aren’t you still pay taxes through your rent.

Let’s move forward together and stop the bickering. Let’s talk about the facts, not your assumptions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

I hear nothing from him other than a promise to be a yet another in a long line of rubberstamps to any development project that comes in front of him, and corporate welfare for any company that asks for it, regardless of how that affects the community as a whole. While such welfare is very good for the development/cancerous growth industry of which he is a part, it's not so good for the rest of us.

Instead of looking for "white knight" companies to come in and save us, we should instead focus on keeping Lawrence a great place to live, and finding ways to encourage and help those who already live here to establish and maintain businesses. If we do that, there will be no shortage of businesses from elsewhere wanting to establish themselves here, but on our terms, not theirs, and on their dimes, not the taxpayers'.

ConstantlyAmazed 9 years, 2 months ago

Rubber stamp? Show's how high Bozo values a Bachelors and Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas. What stamps have you earned?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

His degrees, and his business, are merely indicators that he'll be afflicted with the same conflicts of interest that have plagued the city commission and the city for decades. So I'm not as easily impressed by the sheepskins on his wall as you are, CA.

truckfan 9 years, 2 months ago

truckfan (Anonymous) says…

Lance is not a “devleoper”. he is a pragmatic local businessman who has seen us lose industry to places like Johnson County and further away. With the glut of layoffs that are running rampant, we have to get some companies in here who see the value of Lawrence and want to employ our people. without it we will be a shell of what we could be, or were, for that matter. his campaign is very cleraly defined on his website.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 2 months ago

There is no clear cut plan. Every candidate will have plan for jobs for Lawrence. He obviously intends to go down the same path as all previous Chamber candidates before him.

Are the other candidates willing to think outside the box as to creating new economic growth?

Lance Johnson is repeating what all other chamber/real estate/development candidates have said before him. Yet nothing significant changes under their guidelines for success. Their history: Bedroom Community = higher taxes no matter where they are located

Over built retail = higher taxes = unfriendly to new and existing business

Over built residential=depressed property values = higher taxes= unfriendly to homeowners

Overstocked light industrial = empty buildings = higher taxes

Please note that Tanger Mall is now recorded as light industrial which is an effort to reduce the number of vacant retail square footage however significantly increases the available number of vacant light industrial square footage. East Hills has a NEW 9 year old 600,000 sq ft building that has never been occupied plus another sizeable building which was recently located.

Lance Johnson has been recruited by commissioner Hack and husband Al is treasurer. Comm Chestnut is a Comm Hack recruit by his own admission so I assume so was Comm Dever. If folks have been generally unhappy with the votes of Hack,Chestnut,Amyx and Dever why would they vote for Lance Johnson?

Face it his job is dependent on developers which is the source of campaign funds according to public information.

If he should vote against the development community he shoots himself in the foot. Why would Lance Johnson even consider such an approach?

How do local tax payers fund expensive sprawl and screw themselves at the same time?

HermioneElliott 9 years, 2 months ago

I think there is a line between those who rent and those who own property. Renters are pretty much seen as the scum of the earth. Renters don't respect where they live because they don't own it, jokes about trailer park trash, etc. I agree with those who do not want to see Lawrence become a bedroom community.

thefactsare 9 years, 2 months ago

merrill - where in East Hill is there a 9 year old, 600,000 square foot building?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

Well, Larry, he's the one running, so it's his plan that we need to see, and from what I see, all he offers is meaningless platitudes, which I fear are just a cover for the same ole corporate welfare that won't do anything for most of the city, but will continue to fill the pockets of the development/cancerous growth industry.

rubyslipper 9 years, 2 months ago

The interesting part of most of these arguments is people are saying I want Lawrence to be a great place to live. Well so do I but we aren't at that point anymore. Property values are declining and we're having to make budget cuts left and right. The way to improve the city is to bring in the jobs. Make it a thriving community. This article mentions Lance's five point plan, but not in detail. Which I think all of you should read before you bash the candidate. I for one support Lance's views and will support him in the poles.

D_Puddy 9 years, 2 months ago

Lance seems like a good guy with the best intentions for Lawrence. He obviously knows the value of hard work and how to get projects completed. I'm on board.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

"This article mentions Lance's five point plan, but not in detail. Which I think all of you should read before you bash the candidate"

I read them-- nothing but platitudes.

eotw33 9 years, 2 months ago

“I loved being out on a project, seeing the equipment moving,” Johnson said. “You can touch it and feel it.”

--That's what she said!

rubyslipper 9 years, 2 months ago


Why would you say his 5 point plan is platitude. Obviously we haven't been doing it or else our city wouldn't have the issues that it currently does. Here's the list of his 5 point plan:

Change the Tone at City Hall. We need to send the message that Lawrence is "open for business" by helping local companies to grow and encouraging new companies to locate here. We need to create a positive business environment. Instead of looking at why we can’t do something, we need to be looking forward and creating opportunities. Offer Incentives for Companies to Come to and Invest in Lawrence. Companies are looking to locate where their employees can be happy, and the community is supportive. We are competing with other communities to get businesses to settle here. We need to make Lawrence the obvious choice for new companies, while supporting our hometown businesses. When we invest in businesses, businesses will invest in us. Work with the University of Kansas, Our Greatest Resource, to Advance Small Business Opportunities. The research and expertise at KU is a valuable asset that we must leverage to maintain a vibrant, competitive business environment. Small businesses are being designed and incubated right here in our community. We need them to stay, flourish, and prosper right here in Lawrence, not find somewhere else to grow. Build a Strong, Progressive Infrastructure. We don’t want our population to grow any faster than our infrastructure can support. But we can’t afford not to plan for the future. Our streets, intersections, sewer and water systems need to be safe. Our public transportation system needs to be efficient, and we need to show that we are able to provide infrastructure to businesses that decide to make Lawrence home. Attract Companies that Want to Lead in Sustainable Green and Environmental Opportunities. It’s time to plan for the Lawrence of 2030. Our community must become energy efficient and sustainable. There are countless opportunities to create new careers in the energy industry. Kansas wants to lead that charge, and Lawrence can lead Kansas in creating new technologies and advancements in the environmental sciences.

They may not sound original to you but they're original to our city commission.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

There's almost nothing specific in that list, ruby. And pretty much none of them indicate any significantly different approach from any of the chambocrat commissioners who've dominated the city commission for decades.

antikoolaiddrinker 9 years, 2 months ago

It's amazing to see the same ole complainers pointing out the bias hatred fallacies of others but offering no solutions. So why aren't those who espouse such opinions put themselves out for scrutiny by running themselves rather than running their mouths? All they can be is a bunch of loud mouths blogging in consternation offering no clear cut solutions but just plain nonsensical rhetoric.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

" So why aren't those who espouse such opinions put themselves out for scrutiny by running themselves rather than running their mouths?"

Are you running, AKD?

hawkinarizona 9 years, 2 months ago

I love these discussions....I for one UNDERSTAND what Lance is saying in his 5 Point Plan. When a person knows what it takes to be a leader like Lance, they assemble a Plan. Once a plan is in place you work on a strategy and tactics to execute the plan. There are some people in the world that get it and others that want to automatically take the other side. I respect the other side, that is what makes this city and country so great. We should agree to disagree on certain things. Is this not why there is more than one political party? Now can the opposition please get up and explain their plan, strategy and tactics for their side???????

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

"Now can the opposition please get up and explain their plan, strategy and tactics for their side???????"

That's the job of each candidate. But if you like Lance's "plan," then I don't see how you can dislike anybody else's.

hawkinarizona 9 years, 2 months ago

Bozo- I ldo ook forward to listening to the other candidates plans. Please keep in mind that I will also be looking for their strategy and tactics and a cut and dry solution for their plans from beginning to end in full detail as I see Lance's opposition asking for. Or should I be realistic that a campaign starts with a plan......and the Commision takes direction from the group to develop the exact strategy and tactics to fulfill the plans?????

hawkinarizona 9 years, 2 months ago

Bozo- I do look forward to listening to the other candidates plans. Please keep in mind that I will also be looking for their strategy and tactics and a cut and dry solution for their plans from beginning to end in full detail as I see Lance's opposition asking for. This should include timeframe, costs as well as the number of jobs and development it will create. Or should I be realistic that a campaign starts with a plan......and the Commision takes direction from the group to develop the exact strategy and tactics to fulfill the plans?????

newshound25 9 years, 2 months ago

I know peope want to keep Lawrence the quaint little community it was 20 years ago...but the reality is if we don't grow this town in a positive direction and that means expanding business and retail then people will not stay in Lawrence because the taxes will become too high. It would be nice to actually have decent retail and not feel like I have to go to Kansas City to shop. Don't get me wrong, I love the local stores, but there is also a place for chain stores where you can buy affordable things for your family. People are already leaving Lawrence to shop at The Legends. I am also so tired of people who complain about developers or anyone who is successful in business. We should all welcome someone like Lance into the community and hopefully vote for him. His background is the reason I am voting for him this April.

spankyandcranky 9 years, 2 months ago

His plan is more specific than what any other candidates have provided in the previous articles. I like what he's said so far. I also appreciate learning about how his past experiences have shaped his current perspectives. It's nice to know his positions on Lawrence's past and future plans. To those that think his plan is vague, it would be more helpful to give alternative suggestions instead of negativity and sarcasm.

AJ_Hawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I love how how this last post of newshound25 and most of his/her posts read like advertising endorsements for Lance Johnson.

What's up with that?

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