Archive for Monday, January 2, 2012

Lawrence area’s business call for 2012: ‘We need jobs’

The Bioscience and Technology Business Center on West Campus will be a multi-tenant, 21,400-square-foot facility. The building will primarily support companies in human health, drug development and bioscience fields.

The Bioscience and Technology Business Center on West Campus will be a multi-tenant, 21,400-square-foot facility. The building will primarily support companies in human health, drug development and bioscience fields.

January 2, 2012


A new year doesn’t exactly mean a new refrain for economic development efforts in Lawrence and Douglas County.

On the street

Do you think the Kansas economy will improve in 2012?

I’m optimistic — I think everything I’ve read has said we’re on an uprise, at least a little bit.

More responses

“We need jobs,” said John Ross, who this week starts a one-year term as chairman of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. “It’s an old record. It’s a well-played song. But the fact of the matter is: There are a lot of things in Lawrence that we like to do, but we need to be able to fund those.”

And that means bringing more employers to the area, providing more opportunities for existing businesses to grow and otherwise building a strong foundation that enables more people to find work — and therefore spur more home sales, more shopping, more services and all the other economic activities that generate sales taxes and property taxes and other revenues that make the community go.

There are several efforts under way to help the process along during the new year.

Bioscience and technology

The city of Lawrence, Douglas County and Kansas University continue to invest in and strengthen their partnership in turning KU research and translating on-campus expertise into real-life business operations and related endeavors.

The Bioscience and Technology Business Center, on KU’s West Campus, is on the brink of being filled with startup and spin-off technology enterprises, all looking to turn their proven ideas into successful — and job-creating — businesses. The $7.5 million center is owned by the Lawrence-Douglas County Biosciences Authority, itself a partnership of the city, county and KU.

The new year is set to begin with the center welcoming its eighth tenant: Assurant Employee Benefits, a division of insurance firm Assurant, a Fortune 500 company. The center’s other tenants:

• Argenta, a New Zealand-based animal health care company.

• BrightEHR, which provides electronic health records.

• Garmin Ltd., maker of GPS navigation systems.

• Gyrasol Technologies, which handles molecular diagnostics and drug testing.

• Propylon, a producer of legislative software systems.

• Sunlite Science and Technology, a producer of LED products.

• 360 Energy Engineers, an engineering and energy management firm.

There’s talk of adding to the center, which is the cornerstone of a system that already includes an expansion center — and home to CritiTech, a pharmaceutical company spun out of KU research — southwest of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive; and a center at the KU Medical Center, in a building home to operations for OsteoGeneX, Aptakon, and Orbis Biosciences.

Such success at the KU locations could offer a path for others nearby to follow, Ross said.

“There are a number of things that KU is doing, looking long range,” Ross said. “They want to have a global presence. … The rest of Lawrence can take those as the lead, and the rest of us can pick up our game.”

Other communities also can offer vision for the future, he said.

Partnerships for the future

Manhattan, home to Kansas State University, is building off the momentum of landing the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $650 million federal laboratory complex designed to help protect the national food supply and agricultural economy from both natural and terror threats.

The project is expected to provide an economic impact of $3.5 billion during its first two decades of operation, both from construction spending and then through 450 permanent jobs at the lab and through ongoing collaborations, spinoffs and related business opportunities.

Over in Topeka, economic development leaders are still celebrating a decision last year by Mars Chocolate North America to build a new $250 million manufacturing plant in the city, one expected to start with 200 full-time jobs when the place opens in 2013 and expand to at least 425 jobs in the future.

Helping draw the company was an incentives package pegged at $9.1 million, and one fueled by a half-cent countywide sales tax for economic-development purposes.

The two nearby success stories and a relatively recent third — the opening in Topeka of a production plant for a subsidiary of Bimbo Bakeries USA — offer the Lawrence area both something to shoot for and something to build upon, Ross said.

“I look over here at Lawrence and love everything about this city,” said Ross, who owns Laser Logic, which provides services for printers in northeast Kansas. “But how come we’re missing out on some of these things?

“We’re studying what Topeka did. What can we learn from them?”

The chamber, working as the economic-development organization for Lawrence and Douglas County, will continue to identify ways to build upon the area’s strengths and capitalize on the region’s growing influence in the manufacturing sector and its continued strong presence in bioscience and animal science industries.

The Lawrence chamber has entered into a joint marketing agreement with its counterparts in both Topeka and Manhattan so that all three organizations can work together to attract jobs and draw industries that can be beneficial for all three.

“It’s one for all, and all for one,” Ross said.

Building for future

And other areas aren’t alone in success stories. Berry Plastics is expanding northwest of Lawrence, building a $20 million, 600,000-square-foot warehouse and printing center near the Kansas Turnpike’s Lecompton interchange.

And as 2011 nears its end, another existing name in the Lawrence business scene, API Foils, announced it would be moving its U.S. corporate headquarters from New Jersey to Lawrence. API Foils came to Lawrence in 2003, when it opened a plant in the East Hills Business Park for making hot-stamping foils and other products used in printing, packaging and related industries.

“We are extremely pleased to renew and expand our commitment to Kansas and the Lawrence area,” said Brad Mueller, president and general manager for API Foils Americas. “The Kansas business-friendly environment is very refreshing. The skill and dedication of our workforce, the attractive cost profile, coupled with its central geographic location, make Lawrence an ideal location for our continued growth.”

That’s just what Ross and other economic-development leaders like to hear and hope to hear more often during the year and years to come.


lunacydetector 2 years, 3 months ago

a little over a decade ago, it was topeka and manhattan that wanted to emulate lawrence. my how times have changed.

we showed them how to do it, then we got 'progressive' and our job market dried up, businesses moved away, and leaders today are left scratching their big dumb fat heads.

we need visionaries that are not insane. going 'green' hasn't worked in over a decade. k.u. has tax free space...not fair. lawrence has too many convoluted thinking so-called leaders. they should be ashamed starting from city commissioners, city manager, county leaders, the clique called the chamber of nothing, -they're all a bunch of do nothing blow hards except when it comes to raising our taxes.


classclown 2 years, 3 months ago

Headline should read "Lawrence wants to be more like Topeka and Manhattan".


no_thanks 2 years, 3 months ago

Hip-Your information is wrong. This warehouse is not being build with stimulus money, and it will employ closer to 35 employees (who may live in Topeka or other surrounding areas). But, to answer your question, absolutely this is what we need more of.


hipper_than_hip 2 years, 3 months ago

"And other areas aren’t alone in success stories. Berry Plastics is expanding northwest of Lawrence, building a $20 million, 600,000-square-foot warehouse and printing center near the Kansas Turnpike’s Lecompton interchange."

Built with federal stimulus money for 12 employees who all live in Topeka. Is this what we really need more of?


optimist 2 years, 3 months ago

If you can't build your business or at least advance your concept without government assistance at any level it is what we call "not viable". Move on already.


Les Blevins 2 years, 3 months ago

I doubt that any better opportunity exists (for significant job creation here in Douglas County) than that which I've been proposing for the past decade or two. Many times I've approached the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, the Lawrence SBDC staff, Engineering Faculty at KU, city and county officials, elected representatives and Lawrence business leaders to no avail. My proposed energy, economic and environmental improvement initiative it seems offers a pathway that is innovative in that it offers more improvement in such a wide range of issues that I suppose it boggles the inferior mind. Yet everyone who comes by my place to see and learn goes away saying only good things. Here (below) is what one recent visitor had to say who is looking for a career after we met. He told me he was a "squad leader" in the military recently.

Mr. Blevins:

I had a great time speaking with you about your endeavor of self-sufficient energy. Sorry about the delay in response. I have a lot on my plate right now. You are indeed a one of a kind. You are perhaps one of the most innovative and lively people I have come across in years. Your ideas for biomass energy conversion spell great success in the green energy business. You requested a curriculum vitae and I will provide a short résumé of sorts in the following draft. I am very versatile in my abilities and believe I would be a great asset to you. I have a vast network of contacts, especially in the business arena. Here starts my CV:


annzyoung 2 years, 3 months ago

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