Archive for Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Town Talk: Shelter in need of food; so, you want to talk about jobs; Lawrence second on Bimbo list

February 2, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• The frigid weather has the Lawrence Community Shelter facing some special challenges. Shelter director Loring Henderson told me that he has space for the people coming into the shelter, thanks to cooperation from area churches that are allowing their facilities to be used as overflow sites.

But the weather has made it difficult for volunteers to get to the shelter at times. Volunteers often provide the evening meal for shelter guests. Henderson said the shelter is in need of canned food items so that they have a back-up food supply if volunteers can’t make it. Large cans of pre-made pasta or soup work well, but the shelter is open to all types of menu options, Henderson said. Blankets also are in high demand.

Henderson, though, said he feels reasonably confident that most homeless people are finding an indoor space to sleep, based on reports from outreach workers who go to areas where the homeless are known to sleep outdoors.

“I do know of one who is still camping, though,” Henderson said. “It is a woman, actually, but everyone tells me she is fine. But I still worry as a matter of principle.”

People wanting more information about donating to the shelter, which is at 10th and Kentucky streets, can call 832-8864.

• It is not only the season for snow. It also is the season for what some may find just as annoying — City Commission campaigning. (Not me, mind you.) And in any City Commission campaign, there’s bound to be lots of talk about jobs. So, here’s some Lawrence jobs data for you to keep in mind as the campaign starts to heat up. (At least something is heating up.)

— Unemployment. Lawrence’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent at the end of 2010. That was up from 4.7 percent in December 2009. Lawrence’s unemployment rate, however, is below the statewide average of 6.4 percent. But — and this is a big but — the number of unemployed people in Lawrence grew at a much faster rate in December than it did statewide. Statewide, the number of unemployed people grew by 920, or 0.9 percent. In Lawrence and Douglas County, the number of unemployed grew by 461, or 15.4 percent. In case you are wondering, the number of unemployed in the county is 3,442.

In fact, the Lawrence metro area — which includes all of Douglas County — added unemployed folks faster than any other metro area in the state in December. The two largest metro areas — Wichita and Kansas City — saw their unemployment ranks drop by 1.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. Topeka’s rose by 7.2 percent, and Manhattan’s was up by 4 percent.

— Jobs. One thing to remember about unemployment numbers is they don’t give you a very good picture about how many jobs are in Douglas County. Instead, the unemployment numbers just tell you how many people who live in Douglas County have a job somewhere, meaning as long as Douglas County residents can still find jobs in Topeka or Kansas City, our unemployment rate may not rise much.

But that is usually not what City Commission candidates are talking about when they campaign on jobs. They’re talking about the number of jobs available in Lawrence. Those numbers are a little harder to find, and unfortunately not as up to date.

But, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does keep track of the numbers. In June 2010, Douglas County had 45,956 jobs. That was down from 46,331 jobs in June of 2009. That’s a decline of 0.8 percent. What’s depressing, though, is to look at June 2001. Back then the county had 47,363 jobs. Since 9-11 and all the various bubble bursting, the county has lost about 1,400 jobs or about 3 percent of its total.

Granted, that’s just a look at one particular month. The BLS also creates an annual average for the county. Here’s a look at those numbers:

• 2001: 47,005 jobs

• 2002: 46,259 jobs

• 2003: 46,940 jobs

• 2004: 47,823 jobs

• 2005: 47,798 jobs

• 2006: 48,093 jobs

• 2007: 48,204 jobs

• 2008: 47,049 jobs

• 2009: 46,876 jobs.

The yearly average for 2010 isn’t yet completed. But the average for the first six months of 2010 is 46,361. That’s down from 46,975 — or 1.3 percent — during the first six months of 2009.

• Lawrence Chamber of Commerce officials did recently confirm that the city just missed out on a major job announcement. Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the chamber, said Lawrence was one of two finalist for a new bakery facility by Bimbo Bakeries. The $30 million project, which includes 52 jobs, eventually was awarded to Topeka. Johnson said the company determined that none of Lawrence’s industrial sites — which mainly are in or near the East Hills Business Park — met their transportation needs.

In case you're wondering, Topeka donated a $600,000, 20-acre building site to the company, which will be next to Topeka’s Home Depot and Target distribution centers. Topeka’s economic development agency also is providing a cash incentive of $4,721 per job for up to 52 employees, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Management positions at the plant pay an average wage of $65,000 or more, with a majority of the production positions earning about $19 an hour.

• Johnson said that project was another example of Lawrence’s need to have more industrial sites along Interstate 70. City commissioners recently approved a rezoning of 51 acres just east of the Lecompton interchange on I-70. But commissioners several months ago also approved industrial zoning for 155-acres immediately adjacent to the Lecompton interchange. But Johnson said that property still is not being marketed to potential companies by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. She said the owners of the property have not yet signed a simple form giving the chamber permission to list the property on the chamber’s online property listing site. She said that means the property also is not being marketed by the Kansas Department of Commerce. We’ll check in with the property owners to find out more.


kernal 7 years, 4 months ago

Chad, questions about Bimbo's proposed salaries at the Topeka location. I know wages in KC area are higher than Lawrence; isn't the same true of Topeka? I'm just wondering if Bimbo's proposed salaries would have been as high in Lawrence as they will be in Topeka.

Kim Murphree 7 years, 4 months ago

What about all the empty space at TANGER MALL in North Lawrence...just off the East I-70 Exit? Maybe we should raise taxes significantly on spaces that remain empty for over a year or two?? Seems this is a tax shelter for someone--that our city could leverage to be USED for industrial growth instead of plowing up more Agricultural space... that's a LARGE platte...why isn't that space being discussed and why is it allowed to remain an eyesore for Lawrence?

ralphralph 7 years, 4 months ago

Bimbos could not reasonably locate in "Tang" -er mall ... Already too much yeast involved.

Maracas 7 years, 4 months ago

Didn't want them anyway. Not a team player. Stopped recruiting them. Probably wouldn't qualify. Team cancer. Better candidates out there. Did I miss anything?

hail2oldku 7 years, 4 months ago

Umm, Jack. You do realize that those warehouses in Topeka are just a driver and a five iron from the turnpike and I-470. Don't you?

Brian Hall 7 years, 4 months ago

If you Google the Target Distribution Center in Topeka, it is literally a stone's throw from U.S. 75 and Topeka Blvd which easily takes traffic to the turnpike within minutes.

The problem with East Hills is the access. You have to drive through town to get to the Interstate and big semis can't take North 1500 Road/East 15th because it isn't built for that traffic. The at-grade intersections at Franklin Rd, East Hills Dr. and Noria/East 1750 Rd are ill-conceived and dangerous and even if the SLT is built you still have to drive all the way around Lawrence to get to the Lecompton Interchange. If Lawrence wants East Hills and the old Farmland property to become a beacon for industrial businesses in Lawrence then they will need to make K-10 safer between O'Connell and Noria Road, find a way to get traffic to I-70 (preferably the east exit) quicker and actually start working on bringing businesses to Lawrence.

booyalab 7 years, 4 months ago

I know. Anyone who has spent time in the student ghetto knows we should easily be number one in bimbos.

somedude20 7 years, 4 months ago

are the Lawrence Bimbo's still not up on personal hygiene or do they think that patchouli oil gets rid of BO?

ignatius_j_reilly 7 years, 4 months ago

"In case your wondering ..." Should be "you're"

whats_going_on 7 years, 4 months ago

Why is it that I immediately thought of "KU Sororities" when I read this title?

Reuben Turner 7 years, 4 months ago


ralphralph 7 years, 4 months ago

If you want Bimbos, you must build the SL(u)T.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

It would be a smart move to build I-70 connectors between Eudora and Desoto thus covering those business parks as well.

KDOT did a study that included these connectors.

Why doesn't the Chamber of Commerce pursue this strategy?

Perhaps the Topeka work force was more appealing to Bimbo Bakeries? Perhaps Bimbo does not want a work force that is constantly coming and going such that students provide?

That size of tax dollar give away will of course require a much larger tax base that wants to absorb that many tax dollars. Lawrence is NOT Topeka Metro,Kansas City metro or JOCO metro let's get real.

When students take long breaks from Lawrence,Kansas our tax dollar generating base takes a substantial hit. Face it students represent serious dollars.

This is more about selling real estate properties for land speculators. Rather than trying to intimidate Lawrence residents by labeling us as unfriendly to business why not work with what we have and remember this is Lawrence,Kansas.

How many ways can Lawrence attract more students and buyers of art? Art and Design School,Business College,VO-TEch campus etc etc etc

Again this is more about selling real estate properties for land speculators.

Arts and Economic Prosperity Impact

hipper_than_hip 7 years, 4 months ago

Even if every square inch of Douglas County were zoned industrial, there's no way we can compete with other cities giving away land to attract business.

Kat Christian 7 years, 4 months ago

Well it seems to me the jobs here in Lawrence are not geared to permanent residents living here all year around, but to students who work a few months, leave and either return or replaced by another student. These are the jobs that reject the residents, especially those over 40ish. Since the economy went to poop the job market has changed where it doesn't want to take any chances of having to hire an older person or paying a living wage when they can pay a student much less, even if they have a degree. A younger person has more years to work with a career than an older person does and lets face it some of us just want to work until we can retire, but doesn't have the time to work up earning a bigger paycheck. For some jobs that could take 10 years. So working to get underpaid is a real struggle just to get gas for the car to get to work. So my thought on this is there should be an affirmative action law forcing companies here in Lawrence to hire a certain number of older persons (over the age ot 45) or pay an extra tax. Its the only way to get the older generation employed here in Lawrence. I think businesses would benefit greatly with their experience and knowledge. We want WORK!!

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