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Lawrence ranked second-worst-performing small metro area, according to new national economic index


Call it a rankings rut, and this one is pretty deep for the city of Lawrence.

A new national study has ranked Lawrence as the second-worst-performing small metropolitan area in the nation, based on a variety of economic measures. The Milken Institute ranked Lawrence 178 out of 179 metro areas in its most recent Best Performing Cities index. A web site for The Atlantic this week had an article analyzing the results.

This latest report adds onto the negative news released earlier this month by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis about Lawrence’s gross domestic product. It ranked 339th out of 366 metro areas, and was shrinking.

The Milken report uses some of the same types of economic numbers to create its index. But it places a particular emphasis on an area in which Lawrence is supposed to be positioned to excel: high-tech, knowledge-based jobs.

Simply put, the report found we aren’t excelling in that area. In fact, Lawrence didn’t excel in any area.

Over the course of the past year, Lawrence’s ranking in the report fell 79 spots, from No. 99 in the 2011 report to No. 178 in the most recent index. Only three other cities — Ithaca, N.Y., Great Falls, Mont., and Hot Springs, Ark. — had sharper declines than Lawrence’s.

The report takes a look at nine different categories, and Lawrence didn’t crack the top 100 in any of them. Here’s a look:

• Five-year job growth: No. 107

• One-year job growth: No. 172

• Five-year wage growth: No. 101

• One-year wage growth: No. 158

• One-year job growth percentage: No. 156

• Five-year high-tech GDP growth: No. 170

• One-year high-tech GDP growth: No. 151

• High-tech GDP as part of overall GDP: No. 164

• Concentration of high-tech companies: No. 148

I know how you all like comparisons, so I have gathered the rankings for several regional communities. I would ask for a drumroll, but the drama already has been sucked from this. Since Lawrence is second to last — last place was Carson City, Nev. — I’m guessing you’ve already deduced that every city in the region ranked ahead of us.

On a positive note, Manhattan, which has been on a roll in these type of rankings, wasn’t included in this index, likely because its population wasn’t quite large enough to qualify. But fear not, here is something for you to gnash your teeth over: Columbia, Mo., ranked No. 10 on the small cities list. Here’s a look at others:

• Iowa City, Iowa: No. 16

• St. Joseph, Mo.: No. 29

• Waco, Texas: No. 31

• Joplin, Mo.: No. 44

• Ames, Iowa: No. 61

• Topeka: No. 144

Several of the cities Lawrence often compares itself to, or at least watches, were included in the list of 200 large cities. Here’s how some of those cities fared in the rankings:

• Fort Collins, Colo.: No. 12

• Boulder, Colo.: No. 15

• Lubbock, Texas: No. 20

• Oklahoma City: No. 32

• Madison, Wis.: No. 71

• Lincoln, Neb.: No. 81

• Kansas City: No. 104

• Tulsa, Okla.: No. 118

• Springfield, Mo.: No. 144

• Wichita: No. 146

Take these rankings for whatever you think they’re worth. These indexes all have their own biases about what they think are the most important economic indicators. This one seems to be heavily focused on wages and high-tech business indicators. For what it is worth, those are two areas I hear local leaders emphasize a lot as well.

Another factor to remember is that this index — like all of them — is based on data that sometimes has some age to it. Most of the job growth numbers date back to 2011, and some of the wage numbers date back to 2010. It was no secret that Lawrence struggled during those periods. It also is worth remembering that Lawrence basically has entirely revamped its economic development team since that point.

Plus, some recent indicators have been more positive. Retail sales tax collections in 2012 had their best growth since the mid-1990s, there’s been a significant decline in Massachusetts Street vacancies, Hallmark Cards is in the process of shifting about 200 workers to its Lawrence plant, and even home sales and building permits have showed signs of a rebound.

Yes, I’m trying to put a little cheer in your Kool-Aid. But only for a moment. I’ll leave you with a finding from the report that ought to leave Lawrence leaders scratching their heads. The authors of the report noted that there were two types of communities most likely to do well in this year’s index: communities benefiting from the country’s new natural gas and oil exploration; and communities with “high concentrations of public-sector employees, especially in prominent universities.”

That second one sure sounds like us. But maybe our definition of prominent is a bit different from others. The top ranked small city, for the second year in a row, was Logan, Utah, home to Utah State University. Prominent? I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure our basketball team can beat theirs.


MMorton 5 years, 1 month ago

At least we're not Topeka, amirite? Anybody? Is this thing on?

Jeff Kilgore 5 years, 1 month ago

Ha. Ok, ask yourselves this: is there any other way to rank a city? I know that being near to last in an economic survey isn't thrilling, but perhaps the golden lining is that Lawrence then doesn't have to deal with the negatives that come with "progress" and "development." Nearby Perry Lake is a perfect example: it's practically undeveloped, but and because of this is beautiful and has more wildlife and natural habitat than other lakes in other states whose lakes are merely waterhole cash registers.

yanman 5 years, 1 month ago

Thanks MMorton, my laugh for the day.

avarom 5 years, 1 month ago

Well...... look at the positive side...at least Lawrence Placed, maybe next year you can take first place and Win!! Welcome to Kansas!

Pepe 5 years, 1 month ago

At least we beat Carson City, Nevada -- things must be really dead there.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

How is it a positive note that Manhattan wasn't ranked? If it wasn't ranked it wasn't considered and that's likely got nothing to do with it being a subpar city, it's probably the fact that no one would consider it a metropolitan area. I wish we could have the growth here that they are having out there. Maybe then we wouldn't be considered the second worst small metropolitan city!

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 1 month ago

I was just saying that everybody seems to get mad that Manhattan finishes ahead of us in these sort of rankings. That wasn't the case this time because they weren't ranked. That's all. Thanks, Chad.

Beth Ennis 5 years, 1 month ago

Most of their growth is probably due to the Army's "Big Red 1" , the 1st Division, moving back from Germany a few years ago. I believe they are still building homes to catch up with all the folks who need it still. I'm not sure they will continue that kind of growth when they have caught up. Only time will tell.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

While that may have played a role, I think it lies just as much with the permanent residents. Manhattan is embracing that it is growing and becoming more than a small town. Lawrence seems to think that it is still a small town and dissuades growth to keep that downtown sheek or something. Manhattan has GTM, many many large retailers went there recently, NBAF is moving in, Dept of Ag is moving in, not to mention KSU president Kirk Schulz is trying to get the the university on a new path to be a premier school (K-State 2025), the athletics at KState are killing it this year. Plus, many of the troops coming back to Ft. Riley live in Ogden or Junction City. It's significantly cheaper. Building boom is happening more there than in Manhattan.

smileydog 5 years, 1 month ago

It isn't ranked, yet, but it will be one day, and if Lawrence stays the course, Manhattan will rank far higher than Lawrence. Have you seen Manhattan lately? Everything is new. Lawrence sent a team to Manhattan to see how they do it, which is what Manhattan did in the '90's to see how Lawrence did it. We live in a stagnated town these days. The true visionaries have left except for a few stragglers. The Chamber is full of inbreds and the powerful people in our City government should be sent packing.

blindrabbit 5 years, 1 month ago

After all of these years of this City self-promoting itself in any kind of ranking that might give it some importance; the Big Chicken comes home to roost. Enough beating Columbia, Manhattan, Ames, Lincoln and every other Big 12 (former included) into this self delusion. No more "City of The Arts", "Art of the City" and whatever else the DLI, Chamber and City can blow, Lawrence has some serious issues than an ostrich with it's head in the sand cannot detect.

joes_donuts 5 years, 1 month ago

Sad, but something most business people in Lawrence already know. Until we quit telling everyone "no", corporations with jobs to bring will continue to look elsewhere and not even consider Lawrence.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Um, the emphasis is on high tech jobs, not low tech big boxes. When have we told a high tech place no? Do the high tech places choose a location based on the availability of a nearby large sized Walmart or Menards?

joes_donuts 5 years, 1 month ago

Yep, and every city in the country is going after those same jobs. But do you think those companies even look at a city that is known as business unfriendly.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

If you define "business unfriendly" as "doesn't hand every business a tax cut or let them build wherever they want," then by golly we are. All a matter of framing.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

Obviously it's not business friendly. Kinda the whole point of this article.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Know how Kansas City started climbing in the ranks? At least part of the rise was from an emphasis on history and the arts.

blindrabbit 5 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

thefactsare 5 years, 1 month ago

Actually, the problem is that City Hall and the Chamber have not worked hand in hand. The Chamber has brought companies to the community only to have them chose different locations based on failing infrastructure and land sites that are not prepared for development.

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 1 month ago

We need more minimum wage service and retail jobs, but we've run off Lowe's and Olive Garden and Menard's.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

I know. Where are all the bad paying jobs with crappy benefits?!!!?

Catalano 5 years, 1 month ago

Wouldn't you like a job that would allow you to "live" and not just "exist" in Lawrence?

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Obviously if you're working at a fast food place, you're not "equipped" to work at a different job and should just be thankful your kind job provider took enough pity on you to profit handsomely from your labor.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

There are currently 210 openings for retail positions in Lawrence according to Indeed.com, most of which are part time openings with lousy pay. We're not facing a choice between "bad jobs" or "no jobs."

The whole gloom and doom about the local economy isn't that the jobs don't exist. It's that the high tech jobs don't exist in the city limits.

Most non-students in Lawrence work. The unemployment rate is 5.2%, which is actually better than Topeka and KC. Speaking of which, that's where most of the high tech Lawrence residents actually work. Putting a Menards or Olive Garden in town isn't going to lure us back.

I'm tired of the "but they provide joooooobs" argument used to justify some big box that wants to get an exception to existing zoning regulations or a handout from the city government. A few low-paying part time jobs doesn't make you a special snowflake, and not getting a tax break or zoning exception is not "driving you off."

You want a plan to attract high tech jobs. Let's make one. But quit whining about how a lack of full size Walmart = no jobs in the city. It doesn't.

Jeremiah Jefferson 5 years, 1 month ago

I wouldn't even mention Lawrence in the same sentence as Boulder or Fort Collins.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Certainly cheaper to buy a house here.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 1 month ago

Must be something about Kansas. There is nothing to applaud when none of our major cities rank high. KCK beating out Topeka which beat out Wichita, but all in the bottom half. Rockford, IL ranked above these places. I've been to Rockford. That's a really sad comparison.

esteshawk 5 years, 1 month ago

According to Sammy B, everything is sunshine and happiness across Kansas.

esteshawk 5 years, 1 month ago

To all who say regulations and left leaning politics are to blame: look where Boulder is on that list. They have had very strict growth limits for 20 years, and just this winter approved their first Wal Mart. It's easy to blame City Hall, isn't it?

tolawdjk 5 years, 1 month ago

Name them.

What intangibles makes Boulder so special that you can't find them in Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, or any of the numerous towns all along the front range. All have the same climate, all have the same access to skiing, biking, hiking, fishing and camping.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

You're the one who brought up Boulder having things going for it in spite of the "lefties and regs," so brining up another city with the same scenic view but different politics is perfectly on topic. Looks like somebody doesn't want to admit they were pwnd.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

No you weren't. You were commenting to someone who pointed out that limiting growth doesn't limit economic growth by claiming it's only Boulder's happy mountain location that allowed it to prosper in spite of regulations you deem overly harsh. When someone pointed out that that's a testable hypothesis, you balked that the suggestion was off topic, thereby revealing that you didn't actually want the truth.

Do I think we could copy Boulder's laws and have exactly the same results? No. But claiming that limiting big box development limits economic growth in other areas is clearly, demonstrably false, and rejecting any dissonant data on the topic shows that you're more interested in an agenda than you are the truth.

Jonathan Fox 5 years, 1 month ago

"Name them." --University of Colorado

You mean the fact that it's a college town and has the mountains "skiing, biking, hiking, fishing, and camping."

Pepe 5 years, 1 month ago

If the study measured the amount of worthless hipsters per capita, Lawrence would have been much higher in the rankings.

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

OK, so who's keeping you here at gunpoint? Topeka is just down the road. Don't let the door hit you, etc.

I love the way all these commenters whine and complain but stay here anyway.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

I bet it's because they have one of the few good jobs remaining in the town. Even if a place is broken, an individual can still have nice things and a good life. He/She can still call for change but enjoy their lifestyle.

Amesmb 5 years, 1 month ago

"I love the way all these commenters whine and complain but stay here anyway."

If you think it's bad here, you probably haven't been to Topeka.

David Klamet 5 years, 1 month ago

I am in the quandary that I like Lawrence at it's current size, but I'd like it to be big enough to support more tech companies so I could work here again.

A crash course to deploy fiber internet would differentiate the city and might attract tech businesses. At some point (hopefully sooner than later), fiber connectivity will become common and the opportunity will have passed.

Such a program would have a far bigger impact than a new library or sports complex.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Fiber connectivity is the single biggest thing I could see us doing right now.

The second biggest would be incentives to get KU grads to launch startups and keep them local. Startup bootcamps? Low cost single-cubicle office space rentals? Adding tech entrepreneur classes to KU engineering degrees? If we nurture the startups, eventually we're going to have a few of them grow into local employment engines.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

That would be awesome. Problem is, for most engineering degrees, you need a significant amount of experience before you can start an engineering firm on your own. For some you need 5 years to get your PE before you can even start doing projects on your own. Others you don't need the licensure but you need a name or a product that makes waves. Hard to do right out of school. They'd most likely have to go to KC and work for the big guys and then make the decision to return.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

"Others you don't need the licensure but you need a name or a product that makes waves. Hard to do right out of school."

Exactly. You need an inventor's mind and a technical entrepreneur's skills. That's what I'm talking about. Something like this:


greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

You can get an entrepreneur's or business dual degree or minor at many schools. You still have to have a product or a brilliant idea and you can't teach those. I'm all for the starting businesses, but you can't force or teach innovation

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Not everyone is going to turn into Steve Jobs or Larry Page, but creative thinking and problem solving skills are very much something that can be taught.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

Which is exactly what engineering schools teach now without some added incentive. The whole point of engineering school is basically to learn how to be a problem solver and think up solutions. Yet they are not staying here anyway, They are going to KC and other big cities with a base to build from.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Ok - you've agreed that engineers can be creative problem solvers. The next step is that some of them could also be entrepreneurs. Engineering school does not teach them that, but the puzzle pieces are in place at KU that it could teach them that.

Jonathan Fox 5 years, 1 month ago

I agree, the library and sports complex are pet projects for privileged companies. Barely 50% of Lawrence voted they wanted the new library.

Especially since the next big ticket item for Lawrence is a new police station expansion.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

People voted that they wanted the library. They were never given that chance with the sports complex. Not the same thing at all.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 1 month ago

There is a fiber optic crew working along HWY. 24 from Manhattan to Wamego. Go figure.

thefisherman 5 years, 1 month ago

Proof that Lawrence is not as "cool" or "business friendly" as our "leaders" like to think it is. I enjoy living here but just don't get the hype.

You just can't mention Lawrence in the same sentence as Fort Collins. The locally brewed beer scene is much more extensive out there than it is here. Sorry, Free State.

fan4kufootball 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence needs a mixture of all types of business since all humans do not have the same skill set. Just a fact.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

I believe that if you've got a surplus of part-time, low wage jobs, you don't need to add more of them with tax incentives or zoning exceptions. If someone wants to build another big box in a commercially zoned area without getting a government handout, I'm perfectly fine with it, no matter what your straw version of me might otherwise claim.

PS Would you like to work at Best Buy? They're hiring. So is Family Dollar, Starbucks, Home Depot, and Urban Outfitters.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm going off the assumption that "her" is me.

A) It's only a dig if you think there's something wrong with people who choose to work in the service industry.

B) As I've pointed out repeatedly and you've obtusely ignored, we have lots of job openings at the lower level. If you want employment at "all levels," stop fixating on the one level we've got covered.

C) Nobody has said "no thanks." They've said "no tax incentives," and "no rezoning." If Menards or Olive Garden wants to play by the rules instead of asking for exceptions, more power to them. In fact, if you have more actual median wage or higher paying jobs in the area, I'm wiling to bet that plenty of big boxes will be willing to build at cost to take advantage of that increased shopping power. Retail doesn't attract tech jobs. It's the other way around.

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 1 month ago

Shirley ( don't call me Shirley) you Josh, Lawrence wasn't in the top ten, oh to shame

blindrabbit 5 years, 1 month ago

City burdened by a lousy form of City Government; ,how antiquated. Need a Strong Mayor form with some more direct responsibility to the electorate. Current City Manager is a joke, continuous promotions foisted on the citizenry by a bunch of elected pretenders wit little qualifications!

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

And how many votes did you get when you ran?

Bud Stagg 5 years, 1 month ago

How many engineers, architects, etc. stay in Lawrence after they graduate? I have family that has wanted to move a tech company here and there is no labor force to draw upon, they are going elsewhere.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

It's a catch-22 really. There are graduates who would love to stay, but they don't stay because there are no jobs. There are no jobs, because nobody stays.

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

Which colleges do you speak of? The only decent sized colleges within 60 that I can think of are KU, UMKC, Washburn, and Baker.

David Klamet 5 years, 1 month ago

There are a lot of people who drive to KC each day. That seems like a significant labor force to me.

I worked for King Radio when they had their Land Mobile Engineering here in town. They didn't have much trouble recruiting, as I recall. They had about 20 engineers (including me) at one point.

LegendaryBeast 5 years, 1 month ago

Looks like Brownback's follies are starting to show their effects! Cities in Kansas seem to really be suffering through the past couple of years.

LogicMan 5 years, 1 month ago

Let's go for #1! Run off Menards, now!

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Meanards is welcome to build in a commercially zoned site. Nobody has run them off.

Brendan Lawrence 5 years, 1 month ago

Economic growth is not a clear indication of peoples' happiness. I see happy people in Lawrence, I see people more concerned about each other than about bringing in giant corporate "job creators". Screw that index, probably funded by companies that have huge clout in frivolous high-tech industries, trying to light the fire under cities they think are "underperforming".

LogicMan 5 years, 1 month ago

Were Lawrencians happy during the Great Depression? Maybe if we let people, like back then, raise chickens in their yards to stave off hunger? Oh, wait.

Paul Silkiner 5 years, 1 month ago

Simply put: Liberal or progressive economic policies do not promote growth. They do how ever follow a path of diminishing returns. This has been true for centuries as evidenced by history.

koman 5 years, 1 month ago

How are the economic policies of kansas and lawrence progressive or liberal? Cut taxes on the wealthy, give tax incentives to the wealthy, continue and create new regressive taxes that burden the rest of us. Nothing progressive or liberal about that. Nothing at all. The economy in this entire state is on brownie's back. End of discussion.

Paul Silkiner 5 years, 1 month ago

Look at Johnson county...........and THINK!!

tecuani 5 years, 1 month ago

Simple for a simpleton. None of the Kansas cities are above 100. This has more to do with Brownback's policies than it does with Lawrence policies.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

To be fair, the geography and extreme weather probably plays a role, too.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 1 month ago

Tell that to Cupertino, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle.

jonas_opines 5 years, 1 month ago

Hey, is this the thread where we see a data point that has no given certain cause so we just insert our political and ideological leanings and blithely state that the policies of the political opposition are absolutely to blame? Hot damn!

Jeanne Cunningham 5 years, 1 month ago

Maybe we LIKE it just the way it IS - and IF it changed too much, we might not want to be here??? Beauty (and performance based on economics) are in the eye of the beholder.

Jeremiah Jefferson 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence is a nice town, I like it alright. I have been to a lot nicer places, but I have been to a lot worse too.

irvan moore 5 years, 1 month ago

how can this be true, I heard the mayor and the other commissioners telling us what a great job they are doing, hotels, apartments, tax abatements, recreation centers

chicago95 5 years, 1 month ago

Fine reporting and context from Chad.

Here's another theory.... Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas" came out in 2004, creating an indelible meme. The Milken statistics report on the aftermath of that effect. (Luckily, no one thinks that way any more, thanks to the "leadership" exhibited by former and current administrations and a chastened electorate.)

greatgatsby 5 years, 1 month ago

Seriously? It's a town of nearly 100,000 people! Not all of them can commute to Topeka or KC everyday. Perhaps this small town vibe works down on Mass and the Kaw but resisting growth is just ridiculous.

Rastaman 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence deservedly has a "non business friendly" reputation. I know numerous people that have tried to bring in national companies and have stated that Lawrence has too many hoops in place to jump through. It's truly sad. It's weird that a multi-million dollar rec center can go from an idea to breaking ground in less than a year when outside business can't even sniff any sort of permit in less than a year.

ChuckFInster 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence seems to be on the same path as Emporia. A few Good Ol' boys call the shots and dictate what happens, by who, when and where. Much like Lawrence, Emporia does seem to keep low wages and menial jobs in supply for the masses.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

I am glad to hear this report supports research done locally. Lawrence has spent far to much money on waiting for manufacturing/warehouse jobs. A SWOT analysis should show the job skills of Lawrence fits the report. The Joint Economic Development Commttee should looking into ways to market Lawrence as stated. TREO did this with hours and hours of pulblc input and is now growing in jobs that fit their regional area. (Tucson). We are not looking at ways that saves money by pin pointing the marketing of Lawrence. But what is worse is we are not able to grow globally with cross cultural training programs. There are levels key city staff and members of the city leadership must be trained. We lost a Greman business last year. Partly lack of job training ability and cultural ability. We should be marketing Lawrence as veterinarian pharmaceuticals, entrepreneurial incubator to keep graduates here and provide jobs that fit the tesidents jobb skills and the housing price points. Lawrence is set between KC with intermodal and an international airport 1hour away. I bit farther, but not unmarketable. Topeka the capital with air transport and railroads. We should be the next biggest business location spot. The comp plan is not at fault as recently determined, so we need to change the way we think about business and drop the 80's attitude. It no longer works. Backshoring, geen industry, new industries, global product built locally to help cut transportation costs and many more. More and more companies have started building their product where they plan to sell it. Hyundai and Toyota were two if the first companies to cut transportation costs buy building locally sold cars, made locally. Not that we want to build cars, but other industries are also moving to this idea.

chicago95 5 years, 1 month ago

The reason that an "80's attitude" may seem to prevai is that succeeding generations did not build the same level of social capital. (We're not doing it here in the Comments section, either.)

Paul R Getto 5 years, 1 month ago

Biased study, as all this complex are. Growth for growth's sake will be the death of us all. We need to grow smartly, if that is politically possible. Long term problems with water supply may be just around the corner. Growth and good water have always been connected. Also never forget: growth means bonds, junk or otherwise, interest, debt, taxes and in some cases a rigged deck. Be careful what you ask for and hope the bankers are honest.

ChuckFInster 5 years, 1 month ago

Perfect example of why Lawrence ranks where it does. A wheel ? no no no it's too round. Something like that will never work.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. Lawrence must build for the need of the residents, not for the developers. Lawrence must build smart and not throw money at every idea that comes along. That is why we need to market Lawrence appropriately. The 80s was build for building sake. It has been heard that Lawrence survives on building. That is the wrong way for a community to thrive heathlily. In these economic times we must grow when needed and with jobs that support the community.

cowboy 5 years, 1 month ago

opinions are like @@@@@@@'s everybody has one...

I would agree with our ranking being a 35 year resident I used to brag on Lawrence , not so much anymore.

My Issues 1. Jobs . Im in my 60's now and watch all these loser loadie kids walking around town plus the many neighborhoods that are low income high failure types. Add to that the current crop of parents bringing their feral children to school . I look and say how can these people pull themselves up here. There are not good jobs for the lower end. All of us smart ones can say that you just work harder and be aggressive and on and on but in my day I always had a better job to move to. Thats not the case here for our disadvantaged. Part time , crappy wages , crappy employers = little opportunity.

  1. Growth . The well meaning nannies of Lawrence have all but strangled the growth here. every proposal brings out Agnes the Frog , Don't kill puppies , and the free hemp signs. Open up the faucet for awhile folks.

  2. Retirement ? The latest incarnation of retiree attraction , a planned community. This is code for overpriced housing for the elderly. build some modest smaller floor plan homes that are not tied to a care organization. I want to lower my housing cost when I downsize but I don't want to live in old people jail. When I play my punk music loud it tends to cause trouble.

As for Lawrence as a destination for retirees , hmmmm. Most of the entertainment is for 25 year old potential alcoholics. Whats to do here ? Gotta be honest I'll maintain a small home or apartment here but am outta here upon retirement. to much to do and see to stay here and grow mold.


Sue McDaniel 5 years, 1 month ago

I am not at all surprised, I have thought this for years. And the sad thing is no one does ONE thing about it. Good Old Boys Rule......and our city officials support them....

Brandon Devlin 5 years, 1 month ago

"And this is a complete surprise" said nobody, ever.

Bud Stagg 5 years, 1 month ago

That the problem, attitudes like you present. Don't like it? GO AWAY! This is why we are last in everything. If this town would attract some good jobs by way of attracting some good companies, it would have more tax dollars to do things with. Give a property tax abatement, New employees and money spent in this town gives us sales tax revenue.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 1 month ago

I thought this newsrag was in the business of presenting NEWS! This is NOT news.

This town has been an economic disaster in the 30+ years I have been here. You do not want to be unemployed in Lawrence. About the only businesses in town are a greeting card maker that shuffles employees and work around to the cheapest vvenue, a university who's job opportunities are unfanthomable, and a factory that makes whistles and tin horns hooked to a piano-like keyboard to sop up extra money that most churches do not have.

The city government has been broken for years. We need a city system that represents all the sections of town but we get this collection of agendaed wonks that like to build roundabouts and refuse to allow viable businesses locate here.

But nothing will change. Look at the voter turnout. Most people here do not give a damn.

End of story,.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm sure we'll catch on to that con game as soon as people stop giving us jobs and promotions for having attended it.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

For 30 years the Lawrence mismanagement machine has been controlled by the developer influenced planning commission,planning department and city commission all of which have been led by the real estate/developer controlled Chamber of Commerce. 30 years of wrong decisions.

Saturated markets are business unfriendly across the board. Expanding the tax base must be done slowly,methodical and fiscally responsible. Lawrence received 30 years of anything BUT slowly,methodical and fiscally responsible growth. Reckless is the word.

With expanded dumb growth comes more crime and higher cost of living. Nobody moves to Lawrence hoping it will grow into what they left behind. The only SOLID industry Lawrence has failed to develop is the higher education industry. Lawrence is 25 years behind in bringing on a larger Vo-Tech campus. Students are good money for Lawrence.

Developing a bedroom community as always is about selling real estate not improving the quality of life or making sensible market decisions. Bedroom communities are expensive to maintain.

Lawrence,Kansas is a small town with only so many retail dollars available simple as that just like any other market.

Saturated markets are business unfriendly.

People have moved to Lawrence for years knowing there are not shopping centers on every corner which is quite pleasing frankly. Who needs that? People also moved here realizing if what cannot be found in Lawrence can be found in KCMO/JOCO metro which is fine and dandy. Lawrence can never replace the KCMO metro.

People lived here for decades upon decades without a shopping center on every corner and have yet to move. New people continue to move in.

The message ; Quit thinking Lawrence can be the KCMO/JOCO metro and get real. The only SOLID industry Lawrence has failed to develop is the education industry. Retail is not a solid industry especially when developed under the illusion Lawrence can be the KCMO metro.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

The powers that be with keys to the taxpayers purse strings need to slow it down. Taxpayers don't want to become further victims of wrong decisions driven by the panic button.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

30 years ago when we chose Lawrence downtown had no vacancies,was thriving and had quite a diverse shopping experience. The wheel was not broken = was never any reason to reinvent the wheel. The Chamber and the development community decided to break the wheel = not a great idea.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

Why further destroy downtown? Downtown is the draw to Lawrence... let's not blow it.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes. When I think of Johnson County, I immediately think "downtown" and not "big boxes built to look old and strip malls with lots of traffic in between." I know there are historic downtowns in Johnson County, but I think it's fair to say that the growth of cupcake land has killed those areas as hearts of the cities.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

And... the poster I was replying to has disappeared.

bbohning 5 years, 1 month ago

I am a relatively young (28) homeowner in Western Lawrence who works in Topeka and spends the bulk of his discretionary income in the Kansas City area.

I am not surprised by these rankings whatsoever.

Lawrence?! - A midwestern city with a City Council dominated by an Eastern Lawrence ("let's keep Lawrence artsy and cultural man!") mentality-a mentality which is inherently resistant to growth (re-zoning is not difficult with a functioning city council), a developer/development group that owns vasts amount of land but is in bed with the City enough to demand the kick-backs when and where they see fit, and an electorate that's all to willing to vote for people that simply peg the meter.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence is living economic displacement NOT economic growth.....

We can only look forward to vacancies and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply....

If the past 30 years of Chamber/Developer mismanagement was paying back Lawrence,Kansas would not be at the bottom.

There are tools to discover what investment is paying back however city government has chose to ignore such an opportunity over the years. Therefore it is assumed the powers that be don't want to find out the truth.

April Fleming 5 years, 1 month ago

Look at all of these economic experts! I bet almost none of which have been to one City Council meeting in his or her life.

This is complicated stuff. For all this kvetching I would think maybe not re-electing the same folks year after year would be one place to start.

Lawrence is a much larger place than it was when I moved here in 2000, with greater amenities than when I moved here. It is very true that there are not enough jobs to keep people from moving... but when you have an influx of 5,000 students every year, many of whom would like to stay after graduation, it's kind of a losing equation.

Doug Fisher 5 years, 1 month ago

As a former resident of Lawrence, it's sad to see stats like this but I guess it comes as no surprise considering the inept City Government/Chamber of Commerce that exists. All that sprawl for nothing. Living there in the 90's was a great boom time and I left right as the city became economically stagnant. Now it's way overbuilt with too much retail and strip malls out in the newer west parts of town and downtown is suffering.

Doug Fisher 5 years, 1 month ago

As a former resident of Lawrence, it's sad to see stats like this, but I guess it comes as no surprise, considering the inept City Government/Chamber of Commerce that exists. All that sprawl for nothing. Living there in the 90's was a great time, and I left right as the city became economically stagnant. Now it's way overbuilt with too much retail and strip malls out in the newer west parts of town, and downtown is suffering. Last time I visited, I was appalled at the number of vacancies on Mass and can't remember seeing that many before. But like others have mentioned, I think Lawrence is more a reflection of what's happening all around KS, and Brownback's policies reflect that. Many of my friends are moving from Lawrence to neighboring states and I expect this trend to continue.

bballwizard 5 years, 1 month ago

Hello. If you are not from kansas why would you come here?????? There's nothing here but bad weather and flat landscape

Kermit Cottrell 5 years, 1 month ago

Speaking as a business owner that moved her business to Olathe this past year, Lawrence is probably LAST now. The people in Lawrence are fun to be around but ambition is lacking. Pride in a lack of development, a city that is not business friendly and a punishing property tax on commercial businesses is driving jobs and businesses away. Just this year, the Johnson Co. chamber has welcomed 6 businesses that were in Lawrence last year. The library project and the continuing of the Bond Issues borders on the ridiculous when 'support' comes from voter turnout of less than 20% of the residents. A minority of people are driving an unhealthy agenda.

Catalano 5 years, 1 month ago

So, finally, a productive comment. I'm just curious...what type of business do you own? Is there a better clientele in Olathe? What other types of businesses from Lawrence moved to Johnson County? Do you know why? Thanks.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 1 month ago

"A minority of people are driving an unhealthy agenda." Seems to be the Trend Here in Kansas Lately, wouldn't you say? Governor? AG? Kansas Legislature? Mary Kay Culp? Anyone?

professor 5 years, 1 month ago

I saw this coming over the past 5 years, deteriorating services and infrastructure, ever increasing taxes, and decreasing development. Although these surveys can be inconclusive, this should be sounding alarms back in Larryville. It is too nice of a town to let it slide into becoming another Wyandotte County!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

City Hall and City Commissioners should have known this long before it was published.,

Why aren't the powers that be maintaining ongoing stats regarding what development is or is not paying back with a high degree of accuracy?

Development has been in the hands of the Chamber/real estate/development industry for 3 going on 4 decades. It's that simple. Lawrence has been shelling out a lot of tax dollars to their economic growth advisor aka Chamber of Commerce.

If the vocal minority had their way Lawrence,kansas would have been maintaining accurate records as they have been repeatedly requested to do for at least the past 15 years. Falls on deaf ears. Yes there are tools available to measure the market payback which would provide reason to change direction rather than continuing down the path of economic displacement and/or economic destruction. City Commissions consistently say NO to maintaining pay back history.

If the vocal minority had its' way an experienced economy growth team would be in city hall whereby a bit more transparency would be available. City Commissions consistently say NO!

The library rehab and public school rehab did not put Lawrence in last place. I'd say this likely is the critter === Development has been in the hands of the Chamber/ real estate/development industry for 3 going on 4 decades.

Lawrence has never had a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply....

George Lippencott 5 years, 1 month ago

Reading through the comments it is not surprising that Lawrence may not be “all that it could be”. There are so many conflicting visions above that only a knave, a fool or a very dedicated person would hold public office and absorb the abuse from the conflicting and uncompromising “mob”. All “twenty” of the voters in our last municipal election are really the only ones with a right to whine

Of course, there are a lot of people just not represented here. They work, have a responsible income, are busy raising their kids and in general ignore the jostling hoard. They are mobile and if it gets too bad here they will just leave. Otherwise the very jostling adds character to what could otherwise be another Kansas Farm Town.

Is it surprising that K-10 is so busy? Not allowing outside construction here does not lead to a local business opportunity but to more trips to a place offering a wide selection of activities for all ages, interests and incomes. A diverse population seeks a diverse environment not one dominated by sports bars and quaint but expensive “artsy” shops.

You know, some people really do like the choices in large “box” stores and are not inspired by large athletic venues at the expense of properly maintained infrastructure and large and almost unparalleled local tax rates.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Big box stores are welcome to build with their own funds in commercially zoned areas. Nobody is driving them off.

jafs 5 years, 1 month ago

Please give an example of a store that wanted to build in conformance with existing zoning and other regulations that was driven away.

To my knowledge, all of the instances people complain about, like Lowe's, involve the business seeking to change regulations or receive tax abatements.

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

Exactly. It isn't costless for the city to allow those places to build. They still have to pay for road maintenance, sewage, police, and fire. Contrary to popular belief, that's not always made back with sales taxes or more part time jobs.

On the other hand, I'd rather have a full size store or no store than a half size store. I don't think the half size places do anyone any favors.

Satirical 5 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence may be economically sinking, but as this article points out, at least they are re-arranging the deck chairs!

George Lippencott 5 years, 1 month ago

JAFS and Choot


When a business - any business - makes a decision to invest a lot of stock holders money in a new store they do a lot of homework. That homework defines their boundaries as to what "help" they will accept.

The reality that Home Depot, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Lowes and any other business are at the beck and call of a portion of the people in Lawrence is ludicrous. The issue in my note and in a number of other notes is that these large entities and many smaller ones will not come here on our terms. You want them you need to compromise - as we have done at times - or essentially lose legal actions as IMHO we have.

The charge is making it hard. Restrictions make it hard. We have many restrictions. Too hard and they go elsewhere.

I just do not understand the arrogance that perceives that we get to edict to business and they will bow to our terms. They expect to make a good return on their investment. If our terms do not include that than they will not play.

Of course we have a right to protect our community from the impact of un-controlled growth. I am not sure we legally have a right to pick winners and losers. The choice is of course ours but to try to conceal our persistent attempts to control what companies do is disingenuous.

The report simply suggests that there is a consequence of trying to use government to manage “growth" through regulation and codes..

chootspa 5 years, 1 month ago

The business may think it's in their best interest to have tax handouts or build someplace that isn't zoned for it, sure, but that doesn't mean it's in Lawrence's best interest to allow it. I'll also note that we require them to pay minimum wage, even though these same restrictions cause them to outsource some of their labor to unsafe factories overseas.

Why shouldn't we, the city, expect a good return on our investment? It costs us roads, police, sewage hookups, etc to allow a business to build. It's not a matter of free. Is the business creating mostly full time jobs with benefits, or are the workers going to need local tax-funded resources for their care? Is the sales tax revenue going to be enough to cover all that expense? Are the profits from the business likely to be reinvested in the community, or are they going to move to stockholders and away from the local community?

We always pick winners and losers. Do I agree with every decision city hall makes in terms of who they allow to build and not to build? No. But they do have the right and obligation to make those calls.

George Lippencott 5 years, 1 month ago

Essentially agree as long as you recognize that there are consequences of doing what you suggest.

Your went beyond my comments with concerns about our costs. Certainly we should not be paying companies to come here without due consideration - but of course we are.

That we may absorb costs associated with a new business) or new homes) is a valid consideration but must be tempered by the notion that somebody paid for the infrastructure here before you came. Asking new comers to pay while disregarding the fact that somebody paid for you is disingenuous.

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