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News and notes from around town:
• A Lawrence-based company that used to help fans across the country celebrate national championships has fallen on hard times. West Lawrence’s MGI Companies has laid off the bulk of its 50 employees and is in the process of closing the company, which has its headquarters at 4811 Quail Crest Place. For years, the company was known as Midwest Graphics and operated a screen printing shop in Downtown Lawrence. The company grew to become a major printer of T-shirts and other promotional items for the NCAA and some of the larger universities in the country. Often the company was selected to do NCAA championship events and bowl games. But earlier this month, the company sent an email to its employees announcing that MGI’s banking partner had chosen to no longer fund the company.
“We are no longer in control of our operation, our funds or our business,” says the letter, which the Journal-World obtained a copy of. “We have been given the option to close the doors immediately or organize the closing, given a very difficult set of parameters to follow. It is in the best interest of all of our employees, our sales organization and our customers to organize the closing as best as we are able.”
The letter does not give the name of the bank. MGI company executives Lanny Riedel and Leon Dreiling confirmed the contents of the letter, but declined to comment further.
Whether there is a chance for the business to come back in another form is unclear. The letter does say that the business has been listed with a commercial broker for potential sale.
The company had several lines of operation. In addition to its collegiate business, the company operated Kid n’ Me Sportswear, MGI Promotions, and mypromostore.com.
This year marked the company’s 25th year in business.
• A major empty spot on 23rd Street looks like it soon will be filled. Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall for a Rent-A-Center to locate in the former Blockbuster video and movie rental store at 1516 W. 23rd Street. Rent-A-Center currently has a store at 711 W. 23rd Street in the Malls Shopping Center. Presumably, the company would be replacing that store with this new one, but a manager at the local store said he wasn’t authorized to comment on the move. I haven’t yet heard back from the company’s corporate spokesperson.
• The city has not waited long to fill its economic development coordinator position, and it is turning to an analyst in the private sector to do so. As we reported earlier this week, Corey Mohn is leaving the city position on Friday to become director of statewide programs for Network Kansas. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard recently confirmed to me that the city has hired a replacement in Britt Crum-Cano. Crum-Cano previously was the director of research for Kansas City-based Lane 4 Property Group. In that job she did market and site analysis for all of the company’s retail clients. In addition, she has done retail space planning for the city of Overland Park, and has played a role in the Campustown Revitalization project in Ames, Iowa, the Bluemont Corner in Manhattan, and The Trails project in Kansas City, Mo. For Lawrence, Crum-Cano will be responsible for analyzing various requests for public incentives both for retail and industrial projects. She also will assist the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce by providing information to businesses looking to locate or expand in Lawrence.