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Lawrence-based software development firm seeking incentives to create new jobs; also has expressed interest in possible site at former Farmland Industries location

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There are signs that city of Lawrence officials are circling in on what could be the first tenant in a project to convert the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant into a business park.

There also are signs that the public may get its first taste of what type of incentives it will take to lure new businesses to the site.

The Lawrence-based software development firm AllofE Solutions has filed paperwork with the city seeking an unspecified job creation incentive and a possible relocation grant to assist with an expansion of the company. In a letter to city officials, it acknowledges that the Farmland property is one of the sites it is considering for a new building.

AllofE currently is located at 2510 W. Sixth Street, which is office space right across the street from the Cadillac Ranch nightclub. (That’s eerie because during an earlier period in my life, I would have sworn that the Cadillac Ranch actually was named AllofmyPaycheck because that is what it usually ended up with most weeks.)

AllofE touts itself as a software development firm that has created products for several industries, but currently it is heavy into the education market. Based on its Web site, it looks like the company has software systems to help school districts manage data related to various assessment scores, programs to help universities and school districts manage social media connections with the public, and a program that helps educators manage curriculum and other issues in the growing field of health sciences.

The company has been in business for about 10 years, and was founded and is still led by former KU professor Amit Guha.

Currently the company has about 10 full-time employees in software development marketing, administration and such. The company has submitted estimates to the city that the company plans to add about four new employees to the company each year for the next 10 years. (Technically, it is 35 full-time employees over 10 years.) The company estimates average salaries for the new positions will be about $45,000 in the beginning years and about $55,000 in the out years.

Details are still emerging on the specifics of the incentives the AllofE is seeking. Britt Crum-Cano, the city’s economic development coordinator, told me the request falls into two categories. One is a job creation grant. In other words, the company would be provided a certain amount of money for each new job created in Lawrence. My understanding is the specific dollar figure is still in development at City Hall, but I’m working on getting it.

The second type of incentive could involve either a free building site — or a greatly reduced price on a site — for a new office for the company. That site would be at the city’s developing business park at the former Farmland Industries property. Crum-Cano said the company is looking at about a 1.3 acre site for its facility.

Providing free land to a company hasn’t been the sort of thing the city has done in the past, but that’s in large part because the city hasn’t had land to give. With the city being the owner of the Farmland property, that creates some options in terms of incentives that weren’t on the table before. So, we’ll get to see what everybody’s comfort level is with that.

There could be some costs involved with that type of incentive for the city. The big cost at the Farmland site is providing infrastructure — roads, stop lights, improved water service and such — to the property. The city’s plan to pay for that infrastructure is to place special assessments on the various lots at Farmland. As the lots sell, the new businesses would start paying the special assessments to reimburse the city for the infrastructure costs. So, we’ll have to see how any deal is structured as it relates to who would pay those special assessments in the future.

Of course, there are still several steps left before any deal is reached. Crum-Cano said it is possible the company may choose to apply for the job creation grant, but not pursue the idea of a new office at this time.

Any set of incentives will have to first get a recommendation from the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee, and then will have to be voted on by the City Commission. Crum-Cano said she anticipates the incentive requests will be heard by PIRC sometime in February.

As I get more details on the project, I’ll pass them along.

Comments

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 10 months ago

The city has zero business giving this company money. If they write these guys a check, then they should write a check for the same amount to every store front in town.

blindrabbit 1 year, 10 months ago

I used to work in the very large warehouse of this property (North End off of 15th Street) After Farmland closed, this warehouse was used for a short time for a indoor catfish/talipia raising operation. Is there any possibility for an indoor storage (including cars/boats), would seem like a good use to me!

Rusty Thomas 1 year, 10 months ago

This company is very well-regarded by their clients (I know of two in the area - not just Lawrence) who give them high marks for their products and service. This is a very team oriented company and they are extremely good to their staff, as the pay scale indicates. This is the very type of company to whom incentives should be given.

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

Agreed. This is totally different than propping up some retail or restaurant.

Bob Forer 1 year, 10 months ago

"extremely good to their staff, as the pay scale indicates"

$45,000 for someone with a college degree, even without experience, is hardly a generous pay scale.

The average starting salary for 2012 college graduates is $44,259. avhttp://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/09/06/2012s-college-grads-start-careers-with-higher-salaries/

The median salary for a new graduate in computer science is $56,600.

$45K per year is hardly generous, especially in Lawrence which is not exactly a cheap place to live.

dinglesmith 1 year, 10 months ago

They develop software and the average salary for a computer science student right out of school with a BS is $65K. Might be a great place to work otherwise and there may be more to their compensation package, but on the surface they don't pay that well.

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

Actually, Lawrence isn't a cheap place to live compared to Topeka, but it is a cheap place to live compared to the places most CS majors end up moving. The cost of living here is about 80% of the national average, which makes a starting salary of 45k reasonable for the area.

Katara 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm fine with the relocation grant but I'm not so sure about job creation incentives. You either need to hire more people because your business is expanding or you don't. I don't see how a job creation incentive is going to impact that.

Bob Forer 1 year, 10 months ago

Good point. This sounds like a relatively small operation and the jobs, which aren't high paying for the education required, are a mere drop in the bucket to the Lawrence Community.

I think incentive packages should be reserved for big impact deals, e.g., a plant requiring a couple hundred highly skilled workers making no less than 35 K per year, along with management team, etc. Yes, those type of opportunities are hard to come by, but they do exist, and Lawrence does have a lot to offer.

Chuck Woodling 1 year, 10 months ago

I believe — and you can check with G. Diepenbrock on this — the beer joint dropped Cadillac from its name several years ago.

Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 10 months ago

I believe you are correct that the sign just says "The Ranch" anymore. My wife tells me I'm not allowed to go investigate and confirm that, however. Thanks, Chad

patkindle 1 year, 10 months ago

i remember when farmland foods tried the fish farm about 2000 in the big bag warehouses on the rail sideing, i always thought that was a great prospect for storage of big stuff r

Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 10 months ago

You know, that is a good question. The Farmland Redevelopment Plan approved by the city commission in 2008 showed a portion of the Farmland property just east of the fairgrounds as a "Civic" area. The plan went on to explain that would mean uses similar to what happens at the fairgrounds. But the new maps, I've seen that lay out the development lots appear to show business lots on that portion of the property. But I may just be reading it wrong. I'll ask and then I'll write something up about it. Thanks, Chad

Bob Forer 1 year, 10 months ago

Why give incentives to create jobs? With Brownback's policies now firmly in place, thousands of new jobs should be rolling into Kansas any day now

Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

Isn't odd that big government is expected to pay companies to expand or relocate? What exactly are companies responsible for regarding success and/or management?

It seems to me that overall taxpayers are getting the shaft.

The amount of dollars going down the incentive tube demonstrates the need for voters to be the final decision. Some will get a thumbs up some will not.

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