Archive for Friday, June 10, 2011

Town Talk: North Lawrence adds flea market-type business; Lawrence fares poorly in economic ranking; West Campus incubator eyeing expansion, funding; roadwork short- and long-term

June 10, 2011


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News notes from around town:

• Here’s a sign of the economic times for you — people want to sell their stuff and get cash for it. So, a new North Lawrence business has sprung up to help them do that. The Big House Consignment Lot opened a few weeks ago at 1500 N. Third St., which basically is just south of the Tee Pee Junction. The lot is full of small boats, campers, ATVs and other boy toys that evidently aren’t as much of a necessity these days.

People bring in their items for owners of the consignment lot to consider. If the owners find the item to be of enough quality to sell, a deal is struck. The owner of the item sets the sale price, but the owners of the consignment lot will take 10 percent of the sale. Plus, there is a $2 per day fee that is paid to the owners of the consignment lot as well.

“In this economy, it really seems to be serving a need for people,” said David Wright, one of the owners of the business.

Wright said the main advantage the business offers to people looking to sell an item is the large amount of traffic that travels by the site each day.

“We’ve had people about wreck their cars whipping their heads around to take a look,” Wright said.

The business currently is located on the same lot as Quality Tow, but Wright said the towing business is looking to secure a new location. If that happens, the consignment lot plans to take over the office building on the property and convert it into an indoor flea market.

In addition to Wright, area businessmen Bill Gideon and Joe Richeal own the business. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

• Here’s another sign of the economic times for Lawrence. A private research firm — Policom Corp. — produces an annual study that measures the “economic strength” of all the metropolitan areas in the country. Its 2011 rankings came out, and Lawrence did not fare well. Lawrence ranked 293rd out of 366 metro areas. In other words, we ranked in the bottom quarter of all metro areas. The one piece of good news is that we are up from where we were in 2010. Last year we ranked 306th. But we have declined from where we once were. In 2004, we ranked 129th.

I haven’t followed the Policom rankings previously, but they do look to be detailed. The company provided a four-page explanation about how they do the rankings. The process includes looking at about 10 different measurements of earnings and income for an area, plus they look specifically at construction and retail job totals as a way of gauging how much money is flowing into a community. The study also measures the amount of welfare and Medicaid payments that are being received in a community as a sign of economic distress.

As for other communities of interest and how they ranked compared to the other 366 metro areas, here’s a look:

  1. Austin, Texas: 4
  2. Kansas City: 16
  3. Boulder, Colo.: 87
  4. Oklahoma City: 99
  5. Lincoln, Neb.: 108
  6. Iowa City: 122
  7. Ames, Iowa: 125
  8. Columbia, Mo.: 136
  9. College Station, Texas: 157
  10. Manhattan: 163
  11. Waco, Texas: 202
  12. Wichita: 204
  13. Topeka: 247
  14. Lubbock, Texas: 272

Of the cities in the Big 12, all are listed except Stillwater, which is too small for the ranking, and Norman is included in the Oklahoma City metro area. Lawrence ranked below all of them.

• Local leaders are pointing to some economic development successes, and the new bioscience and technology incubator on KU’s West Campus is one of them. Now, leaders at the incubator facility are alerting city and county officials that they may be asking for significant money to expand. The new facility, which opened last summer, wants to begin planning for a second phase that would basically double the square footage of the facility. But that expansion likely would require a total of $2 million in funding from the city and county, although the funding probably could come in the form of $100,000 annual payments from both the city and the county for the next 10 years. The expansion is expected to cost $8 million to $10 million. Likely, KU and the state also would be tapped for funding, which was the formula used to build the first phase of the facility. Strong activity at the incubator is fueling the desire to expand.

The center has seven tenants and has leased more than 50 percent of its existing space. Most of the tenants have been technology start-up companies, but the center recently signed a lease for a life sciences company — Nanopharm — that is a spinout of KU research. Some companies in the center also aren’t startups. As we’ve previously reported, Garmin has opened an office in the center, and now employs 13 tech positions at the site. An Irish-based Web development company, Propylon, also is based at the center. It has a major contract with the state of Kansas to digitize government functions, and it is planning to add 10 to 15 employees to the six that already are at the site. In total, the center is expected to have about 50 employees in the near future. That puts the center about where it would be after its third year of operation, not it first. Those numbers are creating excitement with several economic development types. Whether they’ll produce enough excitement to garner another $2 million in local funding, will be interesting to watch. Expect the topic to get discussion during this summer’s budget sessions at City Hall and the Courthouse.

• Also expect this summer, roadwork. City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will approve a $1.2 million bid to begin work on repaving Sixth Street from Massachusetts Street to Iowa. The project also will include right-turn/bus turn-out lanes at Sixth and Maine and Sixth and Michigan streets. The work is expected to begin in late June and last into late August. At least one lane of traffic will be maintained in both directions, but you might start planning now how to stay off Sixth Street.

• City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting also will consider applying for state funding for two other major road projects. City commissioners will be asked to apply for state grants that would partially fund construction of a new left-turn lane at Sixth and Iowa Streets. The turn lane would be for motorists traveling west on Sixth Street and wanting to turn south onto Iowa Street. The intersection would have two through lanes for traffic heading west.

Currently, that intersection has significant backups due to the lack of a dedicated turn lane. The city estimates the average delay at the intersection currently is 89 seconds. With a left-turn-only lane, that likely could be reduced to 27 seconds. The project would cost about $700,000, and the city is seeking state funding for half of it.

The second project would be more controversial. It would involve adding an additional left-turn lane on 23rd Street/Clinton Parkway as it intersects with Iowa Street. It also would reconfigure the right-turn lanes at the intersection. That would be a $1.5 million project, and the city would seek $900,000 in state funding.

What’s controversial, you ask? The state already has looked at this project and said if it moves forward it should include closing one of the two driveways that serves the shopping center that includes Hastings and other retailers at the northeast corner of the intersection. The state also recommends closing the opening in the median that allows motorist to head east on 23rd Street out of that parking lot. The noises you are hearing, are the screams of business owners at that shopping center.

The state is unlikely to fund both projects. City staff members have said they believe the Sixth and Iowa project may have a better chance of winning state funding, but commissioners can apply for both.

• Town Talk will take a break for a week while I partake in some training. So, I'll give my fingers a rest, but I hope you'll keep your ears open and send me some tips. I'll need some upon my return.


phoggydrive 6 years, 11 months ago

I think you meant Stillwater not Stillwell.

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 11 months ago

You're right. I did mean Stillwater. Thanks. I've changed it. I also have found where Stillwater is ranked in a separate part of this report. It is ranked in the "micropolitan category." It ranks 295th out of 576 micropolitan areas.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 11 months ago

All you have to do is play SimCity and you can get all this figured out!

Scott Morgan 6 years, 11 months ago

Can you imagine our rank if KU wasn't here? Time to wake up smart growthers.

orbiter 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm not a "smart growther", but you could make the same ridiculous point about pretty much every college town in America. Time to wake up, dumb poster.

average 6 years, 11 months ago

The 'smart growth' people had a majority on the city commission for 2 (and had a slightly sympathetic ear for 2 additional) years out of the last 50. Really, look at West 6th or South Iowa and tell me some New Urbanist anti-growth person has been in charge.

average 6 years, 11 months ago

And, I should point out that that was getting to be a decade ago at this point. Are you telling me the current bunch are a bunch of granola smart growth hippies?

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Quick - put in another Smashburgers. That will keep KU students from driving to KC or buying stuff on the Internet.

blindrabbit 6 years, 11 months ago

Biggest part of the Lawrence ranking (low) is the antiquated form of city government we have, and how that affects progress. I'll bet most cities Lawrences' size have a Strong Mayor form! We seem to keep reshuffling the old cronies!

Craig Weinaug 6 years, 11 months ago

Every city on the list has a city manager form of government.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 11 months ago

Orbitor, Lawrence crime rate is rising, Lawrence ranks very low statewide in per capita pay, has expensive housing, Lawrence offers little opportunity for career vocations beside the tax funded public school and university, high taxes for the little return, and heading further south in all these categorizes.

Not due to being a university town, but because planners without real hands on expertise led us down anti growth path. My point is it's not too late if we can start turning this around.

OK after you explain Columbia Missouri Lincoln freeken Nebraska and Columbus Ohio all college towns rating so high, then you may stick your head back in the sand.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Hmm, let's try pointing out that all three of those cities aren't a 30 minute drive from an even bigger metro area, for starters.

deec 6 years, 11 months ago

I believe two of them are state capitols as well.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Yea, Lincoln is twice the size of Topeka, and far removed from any other large city. And I believe metro Columbus is larger than metro KC. Columbia is also much more isolated from larger metro areas than Lawrence is.

Lawrence is just as much in the shadow of KC and Topeka as Norman is of OKC, so it does beg the question of how they decided not to rate Norman separately.

Like all ratings like this, they should be taken with a grain of salt. But the reasons behind Lawrence's rankings are pretty clear. It's a university town that lots of former students choose to stick around in after their university years are done. But since ecodevo in this town has been primarily built around sprawl, and making Lawrence a bedroom community to Topeka and KC, unless you have a good job in one of those places, your employment choices are largely in the service sector looking after the needs of commuters and professors.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

The constant whining comes from the real estate/builder/developer community who in fact have run this city for the past 22 out of 25 years.

They have virtually controlled the county,city and planning commissions over the years. And some expect 3 people to clean up such a mess in about 3 years.

The "Reckless Growth Machine" poorly designed new streets,built some crappy new homes,flooded as many markets as possible which as a result produces a constant flow of economic displacement. This "unfriendly to business" policy is still in place.

Simply put economic displacement is very unfriendly to business and taxpayers as well.

The icing on the cake is the inflated values aka cost of doing business created by Lawrence movers and shakers who firmly believe that business people will pay any price for the joy of of being in Lawrence,Kansas. Of course this is an illusion perpetrated by the inflation driven "boom town economics" that killed the Lawrence economy and the nations economy.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

West Lawrence developers working to kill downtown has destroyed the retail business atmosphere as the central business.

Downtown is slowly but surely losing the charm.

Bars,bars and more bars is not quite the same as retail shops not by a long shot.

High dollar rent in Lawrence is a big challenge.

Inflated property values = high dollar property taxes = unfriendly to retail business.

After all Lawrence is not the Flint Hills, Boulder,Austin,Santa Fe or Phoenixville,Pa. It is simply Lawrence,Kansas.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 11 months ago

lol I was waiting for a Merrill cut and paste in which he blames everyone except his no growth friends. Lawrence... not as good as Topeka. Congratulations.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

That's a good question.

But we should really compare apples to apples - by comparing Lawrence to other similarly situated and sized college towns.

LloydDobbler 6 years, 11 months ago

Before we start talking about giving Matt McClory more money for his little west campus incubator project, let's give it at least two years and see how he does. LRTC staff historically haven't known a good bioscience initiative if it farted on them and they need to prove themselves before we hand over more money. And what the hell are we getting for the $250K we are giving the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority? I would like to see an audit of those expenditures and a report as to exactly what Mr. Epp is doing with our money.

George Lippencott 6 years, 11 months ago

Hey Chad

"Local leaders are pointing to some economic development successes, and the new bioscience and technology incubator on KU’s West Campus is one of them"

Are we making any money from this or are all these people in there on sunsidy? You provided no input on the gain to the rest of us. Economic development as an end in itself is meaningless.

gccs14r 6 years, 11 months ago

I wonder how much of our economic downfal can be directly attributed to who owns the retail spaces downtown? Lots of businesses that have closed have cited high rent as the reason.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago


I think that's the main cause of it, actually.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 11 months ago

Explain the Tractor Supply situation. They can't even put up reasonable signage besides a direct entrance.

Tractor Supply can bring in people from the surrounding area.

This is typical anti business folks face in Lawrence. Tractor Supply offers good full times jobs, insurance, corporate promotions, retirement unlike McHippy Fish Shanty and Candle shop.

McHippy = typical fly by night local business start up under funded does not offer benefits and generally is out of business in months.

introspector 6 years, 11 months ago

everyone should check out - they are preemptively establishing barter networks for when the proverbial doo-doo hits the fan... just thought Id share...

introspector 6 years, 11 months ago

++ stop spending your money at wal-mart and other places like it... shop local...

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