News and notes from around town:
• You hear a lot of talk in Lawrence economic development circles about how some day the community is going to hit a real home run in the bioscience field that produces lots of jobs for the city.
Well, it is becoming more obvious that Lawrence has a homegrown slugger in the making that has been a bit under the radar. I’ve received confirmation that Lawrence-based SurePoint Medical has signed a deal for 17,000 square feet of new office space in Lawrence, which will allow it to add 81 positions during the next three years.
The company has signed a lease to take all the remaining vacant space in the new Western Extralite office and warehouse building at the northwest corner of 33rd and Ousdahl. That's behind Kohl’s, if you are having a hard time picturing that intersection.
SurePoint Medical may not be the exact type of company you think of when you think of bioscience in Lawrence. It is not making or developing drugs, but it is delivering lots of them. The 7-year-old company is in the mail order pharmacy business. Until recently, it almost exclusively focused on providing medical supplies for diabetics.
But during the last year or so, the company has expanded into providing medicine and supplies for wound care and the growing part of the medical industry referred to as “wellness” care.
Business was good before but it is hitting a new level now, Gordon Roll, SurePoint’s president, told me. The company has added 27 new employees in the last year, bringing the company’s total to 107.
“This latest deal will allow us to expand in really every department,” Roll said.
Roll said the 81 new positions will be a mix of pharmacists, finance and billing professionals, customer service workers and warehouse employees.
Roll said the company has positioned itself well in an attractive part of the health care industry. More doctors and patients have been choosing to do treatments in homes rather than hospitals or other specialized facilities. That has been a benefit to companies like SurePoint, which delivers prescriptions and supplies directly to a person’s home.
“More and more people are realizing all the time that they can stay home and still receive the treatment that they need,” Roll said. “There are studies out there that say there is a 90 percent chance you’ll heal faster if you are at home.”
Perhaps you have noticed SurePoint’s signs on 23rd Street. The company has two offices just east of the K-10 Marketplace shopping center at 23rd and Harper. The company will keep both of those offices as well.
You may remember that we reported about a year ago that SurePoint was negotiating with the city to use a small portion of the former Farmland Industries property to build a parking lot to accommodate growth at those two offices. That land lease was finalized, and the company built a 36-space parking lot, which allowed for the company to meet its employment needs at the two East 23rd Street locations.
That simple little parking lot deal may have been one of the more important economic development actions the city took in the last year. Roll said there were a couple of reasons the company didn’t pursue opportunities in other communities: The allure of remaining close to Kansas University’s School of Pharmacy, and the business-friendly attitude he has experienced in the city.
“The city has been very kind to us,” Roll said. “The city has been very good to work with.”
Allison Vance Moore and Lance Johnson of Lawrence’s Colliers International office helped broker the deal, along with Kurt Kittner of Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc.
“I can tell you this company definitely was being wooed by other communities,” Moore said. “We feel fortunate that we got this space in front of them at the right time.”
• A quick aside on the area surrounding the intersection of 33rd and Ousdahl: Take a look at that intersection on Google Maps sometime. Look at all that vacant ground behind Wal-Mart and Crown Toyota. Then look at the dotted lines on the map. They show the future route for the South Lawrence Trafficway. Look a little closer, and you’ll also see the future route for the relocated Louisiana Street runs right along the eastern edge of the property.
So, in summary, there is a big open piece of ground that has or will have 33rd Street running to it, Ousdahl running to it, Louisiana Street running to it, and will have premium visibility from the South Lawrence Trafficway and it is all basically next door to the largest big box shopping area in the city. That will be an interesting piece of ground to watch.
In fact there will be several pieces of ground that will be interesting to watch along the South Lawrence Trafficway. I’m just beginning to work on a project that shows some of the ownership information along the proposed route of the SLT and what may occur along the major roadway. So, keep an eye out for that.
• Lawrence may have figured out a way to have a bit of a growth spurt without spurring any new development: Challenge the U.S. Census’ population count.
As we have reported several times over the years, the Census and the city don’t agree on how many people live in Lawrence. Well, city officials will be asked on Tuesday to formally submit the paperwork seeking a change in the city’s 2010 Census population.
City staff members have been researching the Census data for several months, and they believe they have building permit data that will convince the Census Bureau that it undercounted the city’s number of living units.
Specifically, staff members have targeted 10 Census tracts spread across town that appear to have more housing units in them than what the Census found in 2010. The city believes the total number of housing units was undercounted by 593 units.
City staff members believe once those units are counted, the Census Bureau may increase the city’s 2010 population to somewhere around 90,000 people. The city’s official population total for the 2010 Census currently stands at 87,643, which means the challenge could gain the city about 2,400 people or a boost of about 2.6 percent. It will be interesting to see if the 593 new housing units produce that large of an increase. That would mean the average household size is a little more than four people, while the Census data shows the average household size for all of Lawrence is a little less than three people.
Regardless, if the city is willing to settle for a 2010 population number of 90,000 people, that is an acknowledgment that the city did not grow as fast as city officials had once thought. The city produced its own population estimate for 2010, which pegged the city’s population at 92,727 people. The city thought its population cracked the 90,000 barrier back in 2006.
City commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting are expected to give the mayor permission to sign a letter officially asking the Census Bureau to adjust the city’s numbers. No word yet on how long it may take the Census Bureau to consider that request.
• Another couple weeks, and another couple weeks worth of land transfers and property sales as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds.
You may notice one sale for property at the northwest corner of Sixth and Congressional, which is just west of Wal-Mart. A group led by Lawrence businessman Paul Pendry of Lawrence’s Commerce Title bought the property, but Pendry told me his involvement in it is really more as a title administrator and not as a future developer.
Much of that property west of Wal-Mart has been rezoned for apartment development. Since we last reported on that rezoning, a more specific plan has been filed by Lawrence architect Paul Werner for a $7 million project that would build 286 one-bedroom apartments, plus a clubhouse, on about 12 acres of the property.
No word yet on when construction on that project may begin.