Archive for Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Town Talk: Kia dealership on 23rd Street to build new showroom; Douglas County job growth outpaces the state, but how has Lawrence become a magnet for government jobs?

March 14, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Just how many new cars are you people buying? Evidently somebody is buying a lot because the amount of new investment by car dealers continues to grow.

According to plans filed at City Hall, the Kia dealership at 1225 E. 23rd St. will be the next Lawrence auto company to undertake a major construction and expansion project.

Lawrence-based architect Paul Werner has filed plans to more than triple the size of Shawnee Mission Kia of Lawrence’s showroom and waiting area. The project will involved tearing down the existing 2,000-square-foot office space and replacing it with a modern 6,400-square-foot showroom.

The Kia plans are just the latest in a long line of dealership upgrades in Lawrence. Laird Noller Hyundai and Crown Volkswagen both have showroom construction projects underway, and the Briggs Auto Group has plans to build two new major showrooms in the Lawrence Auto Plaza in South Lawrence. Briggs plans to build a new Nissan and a new Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep dealership. (That building is going to have to be huge just to fit the sign on it.) Briggs already has built a new Subaru showroom, and his latest plans include making a major splash by adding a 75-foot-tall wind turbine to the Auto Plaza area.

What I’ve heard from dealers around town is that car manufacturers are insisting upon dealership upgrades. As one told me, the tone from the manufacturers has been that if you want to keep a dealership, you’ll do these things. The good news, however, is that some auto manufacturers are kicking in dollars to help with the local upgrades.

• Maybe the reason the car business is booming is because everybody’s got a job now. Well, that’s not exactly what Tuesday’s state labor report showed, but it did provide some relatively positive numbers for Lawrence — and one puzzler.

First the positive news: Lawrence and Douglas County’s unemployment rate for January checked in at 5.6 percent. That’s a significant improvement from the 6.7 percent rate recorded in January 2011. Lawrence’s unemployment rate is better than the statewide rate of 6.4 percent, and is better than most other metro areas in the state. Topeka had a rate of 7.0 percent; Wichita 7.6 percent; and Kansas City 6.6 percent. Manhattan checked in at 5.5 percent.

The news for Lawrence and Douglas County gets even better if you look at how many jobs are actually located inside Douglas County. Remember, the unemployment rate figures how many Douglas County residents have a job anywhere. In other words, if you live in Douglas County but commute to Johnson County for work, your job shows up in Douglas County’s totals for the purpose of calculating an unemployment rate. But the state report also includes another section that estimates how many jobs are actually in a county. That’s the number local economic development leaders are really trying to grow, and this latest report shows some success.

The number of estimated jobs in Douglas County grew by 1,000 from January 2011 to January 2012 to a total of 49,700. That’s a growth rate of 2.0 percent. Douglas County’s growth rate checked in well above the statewide average and above every metro area in the state, except Kansas City. Specifically, the statewide average was growth of 0.9 percent; Manhattan lost jobs at a 0.7 percent rate; Topeka lost jobs at a 1.8 percent rate; Wichita lost jobs at a 0.1 percent rate; and Kansas City grew at a 2.2 percent rate.

But now the puzzler: Lawrence is bucking a statewide trend when it comes to how it is adding those job. In short, Douglas County is adding quite a few government jobs, while everybody else is losing them. The Labor Department estimates Kansas lost 10,000 government jobs from January 2011 to January 2012. Every metro area in the state also lost government jobs for the year, except Lawrence. In fact, the category of government jobs — which includes everything from local governments to KU employees — was by far the biggest contributor to job gains in the county for the year.

According to the Labor Department estimates, the county added 900 new government jobs from January 2011 to January 2012, bringing the total to 15,800. That’s a growth rate of 6.0 percent for the year. In contrast, government jobs statewide fell by 3.8 percent.

Another way to look at it is, government job growth accounted for all but 100 of the new jobs added in Douglas County in the past year, according to the Labor Department estimates. That won’t be the type of statistic that local economic development leaders tout.

Here’s a look at some other numbers from the state’s jobs report:

— From a percentage standpoint, the professional and business services job category grew the fastest in Douglas County over the one-year period. It added 300 jobs for a growth rate of 6.9 percent. But before you get too excited, that number failed to keep up with the rest of the state. Statewide, the business and professional jobs category grew by 8.4 percent.

— One area — besides government — where Douglas County outperformed the state was the education and health services category, which includes everything from nurses to school bus drivers. That category also added 300 jobs, for a growth rate of 5.4 percent. That was far better than the statewide average of 0.3 percent.

— There were 3,444 Douglas County residents unemployed in January 2012. That’s down from 4,110 in January 2011. During that same time period, the total labor force in Douglas County also has grown from 61,256 in January 2011 to 61,859 in January 2012.


Liberal 5 years, 8 months ago

Could it be that the government jobs in the rest of the state are being lost as a result of sound fiscal practices by the Governors office and that our liberal government here in town is following the lead of the administration in Washington?

We are and island of blue in a sea of red....Go Big Blue spend us into bankruptcy!

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 8 months ago

Briggs is paying for his by not honoring the contracts he signed when he bought the dealerships. It is easy to spend money on your business when you default on paying the old owners.

KRichards knows this since he works for Briggs.

Also you should know that every car you buy from Briggs in Lawrence, a portion of the profits go to the Kansas State Athletic department.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 8 months ago

Yep, I do have a million dollar vendetta against him.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 8 months ago

And I personally emailed you info on the case, but you chose to ignore it.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 8 months ago

I'll look at it since you stuck it under my nose.

Post it right here so everyone will know! Why is KRichards so freakin' special?

pace 5 years, 8 months ago

Jobs creation is not Brownback's long suit. Tax cuts for the wealthy, he is on top of. He and the GOP don't get it about jobs. Transferring the mentally ill to local jails doesn't save the costs to the regular population of the community. Yes, the governor can and will transfer the state's savings to Koch tax cuts. Having medical people take care of the sick is better than using the emergency room. We all know if the GOP win more power they will close the emergency rooms. Has happened other places, will here. Tax cuts for the rich, health care for the rich. but maybe they can blame the poor. Teachers, health care, engineers, police, good jobs, also good work. Using the national guard to round up homeless and the police to house the mentally ill is awful, bad long range planning. The gop dismiss the poor crying out for jobs. Their response is to block the poor from voting. Jobs and homes, that is what I want Brownback to worry about. Instead he takes credit for other people work, while blaming them for his own failure.. Brownback is worrying about spoon feeding our tax resources to fatten the Koch bros and their ilk, that sickens me. It is traitor to every hard working Kansas family. Jobless populations are a bad deal. We need job deals, not rich people sneering that those poor people who want jobs, who want work. Even if it is temporary, work on roads, buildings, education programs. We need to work together, not use bad times as opportunities to sell the state's assets on the auction block.

George Lippencott 5 years, 8 months ago

20% County Tax Increase = Maybe 900 government jobs? If not is KU growing despite the alleged cuts? Or is the school district growing in the face of a Brownback purge?? Sounds to me as if more state spending cuts are warranted. We will just pick up the costs locally. Never fear.

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