Archive for Saturday, September 24, 2011

Family-owned businesses a special asset for community

September 24, 2011


This week, the Journal-World reported on its website that the Pine family was selling the highly successful sod business it operates north of Lawrence to a Wichita-based company.

A member of the Pine family noted that this will be the first time since about the late 1860s that members of the family have not been actively engaged in growing a crop in the Kansas River Valley. Members of the Pine family gave up traditional crop farming several years ago to focus on the sod business, which now has been sold.

The Pines, along with other long-time area farm families, such as the Hecks, Florys, Vogels, Nunemakers and others, have added greatly to this area. They have been actively engaged and have contributed in many ways to making this area better, and it is hoped members of the Pine family will continue to be involved in the community.

The sale of the sod business by a family that has been in farming for approximately 150 years calls attention to a disturbing trend: Lawrence is losing too many family-owned businesses.

Granted, times change, business conditions change, and it is wrong to live in the past. Nevertheless, a great deal of the good things current residents enjoy about Lawrence and the surrounding area are due to the vision, hard work and commitment to Lawrence by past business leaders — businessmen and -women who owned and operated their own stores and could make commitments and fiscal contributions to local projects, support entrepreneurial efforts and be involved in a wide range of local projects and programs.

In a growing number of cases, those managing local businesses now have to check with their regional or national offices to find out what they can or cannot do, how active they can become in local matters and how much money they can contribute to local efforts.

This is understandable for companies owned by major corporations with hundreds or thousands of stores scattered around the country. Such corporations cannot have each store or outlet operating however the local manager wishes.

Lawrence needs to figure out some way to attract more men and women who want to own and operate stores of all sizes in Lawrence.

Recent reports make it clear Lawrence is not holding or attracting as high a percentage of retail sales as other cities of similar size. A city the size of Lawrence, the home of a major university, should generate far more retail business than it does. Perhaps this is the result of a combination of factors: the nearness of Kansas City and its many shopping centers, the massive Legends retail and sports complex only a few miles east of Lawrence and the retail outlets in Topeka, only 25 miles to the west. The ability to shop online also is a factor.

Could it also be that individuals who have wanted to move to Lawrence to buy or start a business have found it difficult, for various reasons, to start their dream operation? Maybe it’s because there are not enough major employers in Lawrence to provide greater numbers of employees who would generate considerable new retail sales and feed additional shopping opportunities.

Whatever the reason, Lawrence seems to be falling behind in the retail sales battle and the taxes generated by such sales.

Not too many years ago, Lawrence was the envy of those living in other parts of the state, as well as surrounding states. Starting in the post-World War II years, in the 1950s and until the 1980s or perhaps the early ’90s, Lawrence was a leader in most every important category: population growth, new business activity, excitement and enthusiasm surrounding Kansas University, a great “town-gown” relationship, a forward-looking city government (maybe this started to fall apart in the ’80s) and attracting new industry. Young people, including many former KU students, wanted to come back to Lawrence to buy or start a business.

However, something happened. Either Lawrence wasn’t as attractive, or other cities became more competitive.

This isn’t to suggest that more family-owned and operated businesses alone would bring positive changes and reverse the city’s slowed population growth, its stagnant retail sales and its lack of excitement and enthusiasm within the business community, but more local ownership would make a difference in the degree of commitment and concern that retails have about the direction of the city.

Also, it would be helpful if KU, whether it be university faculty members, the administration or some combination of KU people, would take greater interest in what they could do to help the city. The university is a tremendous asset in many ways; one example is the expertise within the talented KU faculty that could be used to try to help make Lawrence a better, stronger and more attractive spot for business and clean, research-based facilities that would provide employment opportunities for a wide range of skilled workers.

Some way or another, Lawrence needs a kick start to get the city and its residents back to the friendly environment that once made it such a special place.

Again, just increasing local business ownership won’t bring about a sea change in the mood and attitude of the community, but the city and the surrounding area will be weakened with fewer and fewer locally owned and operated businesses.

The competition between individual cities and states for population and retail growth is intense, just as is the competition among universities to attract top students, superior faculty members and dollars to operate the schools.

Lawrence cannot afford to fall behind. It has lost some of the great momentum it once enjoyed, and some way must be found for the city and the university to join forces to regain the positive attitude and vision that once was a hallmark of both Lawrence and KU.


Lawrence Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

There are some very good points in this editorial. However, family owned businesses must keep up with the times. One of the major drawbacks in Greece's debt has been the number of family owned businesses who simply employ others of the same family, even though they know little of the business, just to keep more money in the family.

On the other side of the picture, family owned businesses often know of local trends which large companies, such as Target, don't know of because they are controlled, and most ordering takes place, from quite a distance away. Whole Foods is a good example of a large company, but they consider all orders from local stores and teams a high priority for each store. The Merc is a good example on a smaller scale. I'm not sure where Hy-Vee fits in this picture--perhaps someone could give a good idea. Dillon's, by building a new store on Massachusetts and 19th, has definitely given Lawrence and the local scene a priority in its decision to re-build this store. It is going to add a lot to that part of Lawrence when it is finished.

I especially appreciate the comment that KU officials and professors should do their share to help local businesses. Too often, professors have little or nothing to do with local affairs - this was certainly true when I was in school, and it has been true since, as well. They, and their students, need to become involved in the local community much more in the future.

WaxAndWane 6 years, 7 months ago

Didn't the writer recently sell a division of his family business to a corporation from Georgia. And didn't that sale result in numerous job losses?

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago


So much for putting his money where his mouth is.

Phone_Man 6 years, 6 months ago

If you knew anything about the sale you would know THE ONLY REASON it was sold to the corporation was because they gave their word local layoffs would not happen. Less money was taken for the business because they were told no local layoffs would happen. You people don't even have a clue!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

Providing large new corporations with tax incentives put the "family" business out of business as the powers that give the new corporations a "leg up" over existing family business operations. Or any other business for that matter = can we say shooting our economy and the taxpayer in the foot.

Isn't our local Chamber of Commerce a bit confused?

John Hamm 6 years, 7 months ago

And then of course there's the small "local" business(es) the Journal-World ignores when they could be covering them.

deec 6 years, 7 months ago

So does this mean they'll stop receiving government welfare? 1 Pine Family Farms Gen Prn Lawrence, KS 66044 $ 1,326,415.41 43 Pine Family Farms Lawrence, KS 66044 $ 211,377.00

chocolateplease 6 years, 7 months ago

Does the new owner get these subsidies, then?

Getaroom 6 years, 7 months ago

Doug Compton is a great example of local business, but he has many partners outside of the city. Knowing that Compton has been busy buying up land and office space for years can either be seen as good or not so good. Downtown rents are soaring and anyone without deep pockets cannot pay the overhead to sustain a business. Owners of local businesses experience life like all of us and they grow older, get sick, run out of energy and frankly just need to move on after so long. Maybe it would be great if a local business like the Pine Family could pick and choose another local resident to sell to, but between timing and sale offers that putting more or less money in their pockets, choices must be made. It is the way of personal survival and Capitalism and the "free market". As far as government subsidies concern the Pine Family Farms, it seems the entire country was behind those subsidies for years on end and now what was once a cozy family deal has been shoved aside for the Corporate take over of small individual farmers and now what we have is another child of BIG GOV. The corporate take over of the family farm was made possible by people you elected to govern this great big USA. Want your America back? Which America might that be anyway? There are many more local businesses yet to go so buckle up and get used to it. Gotta take the good with the bad and there is a pot load of bad headed our way if you let the likes of Rick Perry and Brownbackward take control. The Pine family did not need to ask permission from anyone to sell, so wish them well.

patkindle 6 years, 7 months ago

Family business, especially farms require alot of hard work

Especially in lawrence, more of the younger family members Are not willing to make that sacrifice.

It is easier for them To do nothing, just lounge around in their parents basement. Party til the wee hours, and sleep till noon

they can live off of the family, until the family is all gone, They will inherit the monies, and continue the good life Of living scot free without turning a tap

Perhaps they are smarter than us who survived with sweat and toil?

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't even know where to start with your attack on the "younger family members."

Because someone chooses to leave the family business certainly does not mean they are lazy and do nothing. Maybe their interest lies elsewhere and they want to do something else. Or maybe they see the future and realize the family business is not going to be able to support them and their families. But to write them all off as lazy and unwilling to work is just wrong.

I came from a farm community. There is not room for everybody to stay---land is scarce and expensive because many do choose to stay. Many leave to be productive citizens elsewhere. I don't know any who live in their parent's basement, party until the wee hours and sleep until noon. In fact, I don't know anybody at all who does that.

lunacydetector 6 years, 7 months ago

time to face reality: the socialists who took over our city are the culprits for our city's demise. they still have a stranglehold within our city government and as elected officials who control our commission. we have met the enemy, and he is us.

independent_rebel 6 years, 6 months ago

I respect your opinion oneeye, as you seem to have the best grasp on the history of the city around here, often mentioning names of past citizens who did a better job at running things around here. My challenge for you, however, is to give the names of people who need to be cleaned out. Maybe if the rest of us know we can jump on the bandwagon.

tomatogrower 6 years, 7 months ago

Why did the "family owned" World Company sell out to Knology? While I'm in favor of fewer corporations and more mom and pop stores, what we really need is less retail and more real jobs. The reason Lawrence isn't growing is because gas is too high, and fewer people want to commute. I know a couple of people who would move here, but the commute would cost them too much. The developers and the Chamber of Commerce in this town only focus on apartments and retail. Tunnel vision.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 7 months ago

Ok what business would you start in Lawrence that would support your family and then your off springs?? Way to costly to do anything in Lawrence , tax, tax and then more tax

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