The recently announced plan to build a new Berry Plastics warehouse west of Lawrence is good news for the community. It would have been a shame to see this project by one of Lawrence’s longtime corporate stalwarts lured to a nearby community.
A local development group is seeking rezoning for 60 acres west of the Lecompton Kansas Turnpike interchange to build the $21 million warehouse. The location is where Berry Plastics had originally wanted to build, but an ownership dispute and lawsuits by neighbors had derailed those plans.
It’s good to see them back on track.
Developers are not seeking to have the property annexed, so the new warehouse won’t be added to city tax rolls. Nonetheless, the warehouse will be an important asset for Douglas County.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of last week’s announcement is that it further solidifies Berry Plastics’ ties to Lawrence. The company that was founded by Jim Schwartzburg in 1968 as Packer Plastics and sold to Berry in 1997 has been a strong corporate citizen for Lawrence, supporting community causes such as providing employment for clients of Cottonwood, Inc. The drink-cup manufacturing plant in Lawrence now has 950 employees.
The proposed new warehouse will create only 11 new jobs in Douglas County, but about 350 additional jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase. More important is the fact that this warehouse will be located in Douglas County, close to the Lawrence manufacturing plant rather than being lured to Topeka or some other nearby community.
That strengthens the company’s ties to Lawrence and prevents Berry from establishing a foothold in another community. In the current highly competitive economic development climate those ties can be important as the company considers future expansion plans.
Local economic development officials worked hard to try to find a home for the Berry warehouse. The plans announced last week indicate the project is close to becoming a reality. Now, city-county planning officials should do everything they can to support and move this project forward.