Archive for Monday, October 17, 2011

Town Talk: UPDATE: Start-up pharma firm selects incubator; hopes for a rubber dam on the Kaw; Lawrence real estate scene adds Keller Williams agency; Re-Max agency reopens under new ownership

October 17, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• UPDATE: A start-up company that works to make painkillers have fewer side effects has signed a deal to locate in Kansas University’s biosciences incubator. Mencuro Therapeutics Inc. has agreed to move into the Bioscience and Technology Business Center Expansion Facility near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The company uses research developed by KU researcher Tom Prisinzano and Laura Bohn, a neuroscientist at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida. That pair teamed up with colleagues Robert Karr and Randy Weiss to launch the company earlier this year. The start-up is hiring one full-time biologist immediately and plans to hire additional scientists within the next year.

The company’s focus is on how to make painkillers similar to morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, but without the harsh side effects.

“We’re trying to take the strongest, most potent painkillers and eliminate the side effects so they’re more like Advil or Tylenol,” Prisinzano said.

Mencuro becomes the 11th tenant for the 14-month old incubator system. The incubator houses nine tenants at its main facility on West Campus and two at its expansion facility at Bob Billings and Wakarusa Drive. The incubator is a partnership between KU, the city, the county, the chamber, the local bioscience authority and the state bioscience authority. The strong amount of tenant activity has led to expansion plans for the incubator. The city has put $500,000 in its 2012 budget to kickstart an effort to build more space on West Campus. The project likely will take $7 million to $8 million to complete.

• I’ve heard many times that this is the point where the rubber meets the road. But I’m not sure I’ve ever heard now is the time for the rubber to meet the dam. Lawrence city commissioners will be told just that at their meeting on Tuesday. In the coming weeks, city commissioners will have to decide whether to spend about $425,000 to replace the old plywood “flashboards” atop the Bowersock Dam on the Kansas River with a new high-tech, inflatable rubber dam. The leaders with Bowersock Mills & Power Co. are ready to pay for most of the project, which is expected to total about $1.3 million. But they’re seeking some help from the city because Lawrence has an agreement to maintain the dam, which helps ensure there is a deep enough pool of water in the Kaw to enable the city’s water plant to operate properly.

Bowersock leaders say this rubber dam will help with that. The current system of plywood flashboards basically adds height to the 100-plus year old dam. But the problem is the flashboards have to be manually raised, meaning someone has to walk out onto the dam to do the job. There are many times that the flashboards don’t get lowered or raised at the right time because the river conditions are too dangerous to send a worker out on the dam.

The proposed rubber dam system would include four or five inflatable bladders that are protected by some sort of durable canvas. (If I could only count the times I wish I had four or five inflatable bladders.) The bladders could be inflated or deflated remotely from a computer system at Bowerock’s power plant. I’m guessing the system may change the look of the dam too. The current flashboard system allows a constant flow of water through the gaps between each plywood flashboard. That creates kind of a cascading effect. I think the new system would eliminate a lot of that “flow-through.”

Bowersock leaders say now is the time to do the project. Bowersock currently is building a new hydroelectric power plant on the north end of the dam. That means construction crews already are on site, which will make it cheaper to do the project. The city is being asked for $425,000, but technically only about $130,000 is for the rubber dam. The rest is for repairs to the face of the dam. The city did major repairs to the dam in 2010, but it did not repair the southern end of the dam. Bowersock said now is the most cost-effective time to do those repairs because construction crews already will be on site, and the city can utilize a coffer dam that will be built as part of the Bowersock power plant project.

What isn’t ideal, though, is the city doesn’t have the money in its budget to do the project. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday are not expected to make any decision on the project. Instead, they’ll formally receive the request and ask staff to come up with a recommendation.

• You may have started to notice some new looking signs in the Lawrence real estate market. The national franchise of Keller Williams has entered the Lawrence market, and it is looking to do so in a big way. The company has taken over the office space at 545 Columbia Drive that formerly housed Re-Max real estate (more on that in a moment.) The new agency is operated by Keller Williams Diamond Partners, which is a big player in the Olathe market with about 230 agents over there. The company is working on building up big numbers in Lawrence too. It currently has about 20 agents, and operating principal Larry Kueser told me the long-term goal is to have about 100 agents.

“We’ll have many more folks in the community,” Kueser said.

Kueser said his company decided to expand into the Lawrence market because business had been going so well in Olathe. The company has been operating in Olathe for six years, and he said their business has been growing by 6 to 7 percent even as the national real estate industry contracts.

“We just feel like we have something good going,” Kueser said. “Whether it be pricing the house right, staging it right, or using the technology the right way, we feel like we have a good strategy.”

• Keller Williams took over the Re-Max office space off of West Sixth Street, but Re-Max continues to operate in the market. The local franchise has been bought by longtime Lawrence real estate agent Larry Northrop. Members of the Edmondson and Arensberg families had the Re-Max agency in Lawrence for about 20 years, but recently decided to get out of the business. Northrop said the idea of owning his own agency appealed to him, and he thought it was important to keep the Re-Max brand name in Lawrence.

“I think a lot of agents are understanding the need to brand themselves with a national company to have the technology and the referral networks that the national companies can offer,” Northrop said.

Northrop has set up office space at 1420 Wakarusa in the Commerce Title building. Currently the agency consists of Northrop and local agent Bill Bowers, but Northrop said he plans to add more agents in the near future.

The business will host an open house and ribbon cutting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at its offices at 1420 Wakarusa Drive.


Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 8 months ago

That's what this town needs -- more real estate agents.

As for the rubber dam -- it had better be self-sealing because it will be a target for every drunk bubba with a .22 who drives by.

08Champs 6 years, 8 months ago

There probably won't be many "more" agents - they just move from one company to another.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 8 months ago

Today's real estate agents can only hope to achieve the awesomeness of Deb Tolar and her Glamour Shot ads that were thrown up on the big screen at the movie theater.

cowboy 6 years, 8 months ago

might want to talk to Tempe , Az about that whole rubber dam thing , theirs burst !

Side effects from morphine ? what , I feel too good ,

Michael Sizemore 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm sure the rubber dams are better now...? We had one in our little KS town in the 80's on the "creek". It was shot and deflated at least twice a year. They added flood lights and cameras which only meant a longer shot. Eventually it was replaced with concrete.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm confused....a private hydro-electricity company using a publicly financed dam and public resource (Kaw river)? How's that? Come again? Will the electricity be sold to the city at discounted rates? Bowersock can suck it for all I care.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Rubber dam? The jokes just write themselves.

LHS56 6 years, 8 months ago

One might suggest a little reseach prior to installing a rubber dam. Disposal wrote the dam was shot and deflated twice a year. Hmmm....why do I think twice a month might be closer in Lawrence.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

"The company’s focus is on how to make painkillers similar to morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, but without the harsh side effects."

I hope that the nausea, euphoria, and addiction problems are what they consider to be "the harsh side effects"!

If they can beat those three problems by crafting a painkiller molecule that would qualify for the FDA's list of schedule IV or V drugs, they are going to be very, very successful!

Catalano 6 years, 8 months ago

Oh dear lord, please do not take away the euphoria...I will never get anything done!

alfie 6 years, 8 months ago

Lowe's to close 20 stores, cut almost 2K jobs Lowe's will close 20 stores, cut 1,950 jobs, plans to open fewer stores

FILE - Home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. said Monday, Oct. 17, 2011, it will close 20 underperforming stores in 15 states and cut 1,950 jobs in order to focus on more profitable locations. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File) Mae Anderson, AP Retail Writer, On Monday October 17, 2011, 6:42 pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. said Monday it will close 20 underperforming stores in 15 states and cut 1,950 jobs in order to focus on more profitable locations.

Ten locations were closed Sunday; the other 10 will close in a month. They include three closings in New Hampshire and two each in California, Illinois and Maine.

Before the closures, Lowe's operated 1,725 stores.

Lowe's, based in Mooresville, N.C., also said it will only open 10 to 15 stores in North America annually beginning in 2012. Previously the company expected to open 30 stores per year. It will open 25 stores this year.

Lowe's said the moves will cost it 17 cents to 20 cents per share in its current fiscal year.

In August, Lowe's said volatile weather and shoppers' worries about the economy hurt demand. Its net income was nearly flat in the second quarter and the company lowered its yearly sales forecast, saying it expected net income of $1.48 to $1.54 per share in its fiscal year ending Feb. 3.

The company's results have been pressured as consumers continue to stick to home renovation products under $500. In August the company said it was closing 7 stores and eliminating 650 associated jobs.

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