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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

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.

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