News and notes from around town:
• The odd combination of railroading and computing has one Lawrence engineering firm adding employees and adding new office space. Officials at Starfire Engineering and Technologies confirmed the company is moving from its longtime space at 2429 Iowa St. into space on the ground floor of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America building near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive.
The company has about 20 employees currently, but needs more space because its workforce has been growing significantly. Richard Spurlock, a principal of the firm, said that in the last 90 days the company has added three new positions and expects to add more than that during the next six months. Most of the positions are highly technical, such as systems engineers or system architects.
Starfire is having success on two fronts. One is in the railroad industry. Although this prolonged economic downturn hasn’t been great for the rail industry, Starfire has been in a position to capitalize because it does the engineering and design work on how to refurbish railcars. Refurbishing cars rather than buying new ones has been an attractive option for many railroads that Starfire does business with around the world.
But I get the sense that Starfire’s business is booming the most on the computer side of the equation. The company provides data storage solutions, business continuity and business disaster recovery services and social business software. (Social business software? I thought social business was known as happy hour and an expense account.)
The company’s data storage operations really have seen an “extreme uptick,” Spurlock said. That’s in part because Starfire has developed a partnership with IBM where Starfire tests new products for IBM before they go to market. In fact, Spurlock will be in New York soon to help with a public launch of some IBM products.
The move into the GCSSA space (the golf course superintendents are still in the building, too, but they have long leased out extra space in the facility) is expected to have a benefit to Lawrence besides the jobs. Spurlock said Starfire normally hosts six or more conferences or training session each year for its clients. They have previously been holding those in Kansas City, but Spurlock said the new offices have enough high-tech meeting room space that they’ll be able to have the meetings on site, bringing more business travelers to Lawrence.
The company plans to make the move into the new space by Nov. 1.
• One of the city’s larger construction projects of the last couple of years is set to unveil itself to the city. (Although if you have driven on Sixth Street and haven’t already noticed it, you must be texting with my wife.) Meadowlark Estates Retirement Community is set to hold a grand opening ceremony from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Meadowlark is the $10 million housing complex that is just north of Sixth Street and Folks Road in the Bauer Farm development. As we have previously reported, the project is a unique effort to draw retirees and other empty nesters to the city. The facility has 124 “apartments” — studios, one bedrooms and two bedrooms — but none of them has kitchen units. Instead, the facility employs its own chefs and has its own dining area. Your monthly rent includes three prepared meals a day. The project also includes a movie theater, a fitness center, an on-site beauty parlor, weekly housekeeping and a transportation service. The grand opening, of course, is open to the public, and will include some free food from the facility’s kitchen. There will be speech-making at 1:45 p.m. by City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who will be wearing his ceremonial hat of vice mayor. (You should see that hat.)
• Here’s one thing that many city residents have been seeing: The reconstruction project on Kasold Drive from about Clinton Parkway to 31st Street looks like it is ready for four lanes of traffic again. But, looks can be deceiving. Expect the road to be limited to one lane in each direction until Thanksgiving. City commissioners recently asked for an update on the project because they are starting to get calls from folks who live near the road and would like to once again be able to make a left-turn into their neighborhoods. But Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, said although the pavement is down for the street, it can’t fully be re-opened yet. That’s because there are still curbs, sidewalks and other infrastructure to be installed. That work will require construction crews to still be out in the roadway. But Soules said the good news is that crews are still on schedule to have the road re-opened by Thanksgiving.
“We know it has been an inconvenience out there, and we really appreciate everyone’s patience,” Soules said.
• Speaking of Thanksgiving, Lawrence residents will have something new to plan for this year. The city traditionally has run a special residential trash route on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, in order to pick up the trash from homes that normally are serviced on Thursday. But the city this year will cancel that service in an effort to save some money. Because the day after Thanksgiving is a city holiday, the solid waste crews in the past have received holiday pay for running the trash routes. So, if you are a residential customer (commercial customers are a whole different deal) and normally have your trash picked up on Thursday, you’ll need to plan ahead. For those residents who live north of 23rd Street/Clinton Parkway, your trash will be picked up on Tuesday, Nov. 22. For those residents who live south of 23rd Street/Clinton Parkway, trash will be picked up on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The change only will impact those customers whose normal trash day falls on Thanksgiving. Well, it only will directly impact those folks. It indirectly will impact us all. This is Black Friday after all. The day when stores across the city offer all types of incredible deals for those who “bust their doors” early in the morning. Think about that for a minute. Now, we’ll have to be competing with solid waste workers. They already are used to getting up early, and man, I bet they can drive a shopping cart. One driving, and two hanging off the back, snatching up all the deals. Maybe I’ll just sleep in.