Almost anybody who follows the Lawrence business scene can tell you that local entrepreneur Doug Compton has a growing enterprise.
That never will be more evident than next year when groups led by Compton begin work on a pair of multistory buildings at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
But what may not be as evident to the general public is that Compton also has a growing banking enterprise. A new deal has recently put that on display.
De Soto-based Great American Bank on Nov. 30 finalized its purchase of Lone Summit Bank of Lake Lotawana, Mo., which now will become a branch of Great American Bank. That’s significant in Lawrence because Great American Bank is owned by First Financial Bancshares Inc., a Lawrence-based bank holding company that is led by Compton.
First Financial Bancshares also is the holding company that owns Lawrence Bank and its two locations in the city. But it has been Great American Bank that really has been the aggressively expanding enterprise at First Financial. In 2009, Great American Bank purchased First Bank of Kansas City at 39th and Main from the FDIC.
Travis Hicks, Great American’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the bank’s growth strategy is likely to continue as the “bank will continue to look for opportunities to expand throughout the market.”
Also expect some activity from Lawrence Bank in the near future. The company will be getting a brand new facility as part of Compton’s plans to build a multistory apartment and office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. Lawrence Bank currently has offices in the former Black Hills Energy building that is on the site and will be demolished as part of the project. Plans for the new building show a bank and drive-thru lane occupying a good part of the first floor of the new building.
According to a September filing with the FDIC, First Financial Bancshares had about $128.2 million in assets. With this latest deal, the total is expected to grow to about $155 million in assets.
According to records with the FDIC, the company has grown its assets by about 30 percent since late 2008. The latest FDIC report shows the bank holding company had net operating income of about $1.3 million, up from about $565,000 in 2008.
Compton, according to the most recent annual report from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, serves as president of the bank holding company. Other directors of the company include Lawrence residents Jeff Hatfield, Les Dreiling and Hicks.
Milton’s may not be coming back to downtown Lawrence, but a full-fledged breakfast restaurant is slated for its spot at 920 Massachusetts St.
And it will have a strong Milton’s connection.
Manda Jolly, a former general manager for Milton’s, has inked a deal to open The Roost in early 2013.
Jolly said the restaurant and its menu won’t be a replica of Milton’s — which closed last month — but it will be a place to get a traditional breakfast, and some of the menu items will be very recognizable to fans of Milton’s.
“I understand that there were things that people grew to love and need from there,” said Jolly.
(I’m working to get her to write my doctor a note to prove to him that I indeed do need sausage gravy.)
Jolly said The Roost will focus on breakfast, lunch, pastries and something she calls “inspired cocktails.” (That sounds a bit redundant to me. Almost every cocktail I’ve had has inspired me to have another.)
Jolly is opening the restaurant with three other partners — she is not yet releasing those names — but she said one of the partners has opened and managed several bars in Lawrence. She said The Roost will be more committed to having cocktails and spirits be a part of the restaurant than Milton’s was, which had a liquor license on and off during its existence. But at the moment, Jolly said the restaurant won’t have regular evening hours. (Don’t fret, I’ve heard cocktails at lunch can be very inspiring and darn right transformational at breakfast.) Instead, The Roost will be available for rent for evening events, and Jolly said the restaurant also will host a few special evenings per year.
The former Milton’s space will get a major makeover to accommodate The Roost. Jolly said the name for the restaurant comes from her family’s farm just outside of Speed, Kan., which is near Phillipsburg, which is near Stockton, which is near . . . (In Western Kansas, we could play this game all day, but it always ends the same. It is east of Denver.) The family farm’s name is The Roost, and Jolly said the restaurant space is going to take on a little bit more of that type of feel with some old barn wood incorporated into the design and more natural elements such as exposing some stone walls.
When all of it comes together, is still a bit uncertain. Jolly at this point is only committing to “early 2013” as an opening date.
“I don’t want to give up on January yet, but it won’t be early January,” Jolly said.
Jolly started at Milton’s as a hostess on the day the restaurant opened in 1997. Jolly worked there pretty much for the next 11 years, rising to the rank of general manager. When she left the restaurant four years ago, she tried to buy Milton’s then, but the deal never quite happened. The idea, though, never did fully leave her.
“I love mornings,” Jolly said. “I’m used to that. Milton’s served as a major hub of the community for a long time. It always has been the best job I ever had.”
Well, it looks like dreams of Lawrence perhaps having the most picturesque Planning and Development Services offices in the country have been dashed.
There had been quite a bit of speculation in certain real estate circles that the city of Lawrence was close to buying the Abe & Jake’s Landing building that is immediately east of City Hall.
The city was interested in the building as a home for a combined office for its Planning and Development Services Department. Currently, the building permit and code enforcement portion of that department is in the former Riverfront Mall, while the planning portion of the department is in City Hall. The city has long wanted a combined office so it can have a “one-stop shop” for builders and developers doing business with the city.
And what a stop that would have been. If you have forgotten, the Abe & Jake’s building is one of the more unique in the city. The old 19th Century industry building sits along the south bank of the Kansas River and has huge windows overlooking the Kaw.
But it appears the deal is not to be. Mayor Bob Schumm confirmed to me that the city had been working for about four months on a potential purchase. But after architects brought back estimates on what it would cost to renovate the 24,000-square-foot building — which has about 50-foot-high ceilings in most places — the city recently backed away from the deal.
Schumm said he doesn’t see much chance the city will pursue the building in the future, and he said the city currently is not looking at any other locations for a joint Planning and Development Services office.
The deal would have come with an interesting twist: The city would have been buying a building it already owns. The building and property came under the ownership of the city when it purchased land in the area for City Hall. But the city in the 1990s granted Lawrence businessman Mike Elwell a low-cost, long-term lease on the building, in exchange for him making about $2 million worth of improvements to what had become an eyesore of a building.
Elwell’s lease on the building runs into 2087. The city really would have been purchasing that lease.
Elwell has made no secret that he wants to sell his rights to the building. We reported in January 2011 that the building — which basically has been an event venue and nightclub since Elwell finished the building in 2002 — was on the market for $1.3 million.
At the time, Elwell said he was receiving some interest from hotels and others who wanted to use the building as a small-scale convention center and events venue. But he said the slow economy was holding back those sort of deals. It will be interesting to see what eventually lands at Abe & Jake’s.
The fact the city was contemplating a deal for the property also brings up an interesting point. According to my sources, the city believed it could purchase and perhaps renovate the building without having to raise any taxes.
If so, this is just another reminder of how unique of a financial position the city is in. It has access to cheap money through the bond market that is lending money at historically low rates, and the city’s bond and interest fund has very sizable reserves at the moment.
Let’s do a little back-of-the-napkin math on all the projects the city has or plans to do without raising taxes: $25 million for a recreation center; about $7 million in infrastructure for the future business park at the former Farmland Industries site; let’s estimate $3 million for the Planning and Development Services offices; and then there is the approximately $300,000 per year the city says it has to cover the expected operational shortfall of the proposed recreation center. That $300,000 per year probably could finance about a $4 million bond.
That’s just off the top of my head, and the amount comes to $39 million the city can put toward a project or projects without having to raise taxes. I wonder how many folks realize how unique of a time period Lawrence city government finds itself in these days.
More on that another day.
City Hall on a Tuesday night is sometimes a good place to see an odd sight.
That may be the case tonight. When Lawrence city commissioners meet for their regular weekly meeting, Mayor Bob Schumm is scheduled to be wearing odd attire.
Schumm will be decked out in team gear from West Virginia University. The folks at city hall in Morgantown, W.Va. — home of West Virginia University — proposed a wager with Schumm. If KU won last Saturday’s football game between the two universities, Morgantown mayor would wear KU gear to his council meeting. If West Virginia won the game, Schumm would wear Mountaineer gear.
The folks at Morgantown offered a similar wager to all the other Big 12 communities. I suspect it was just their way of saying hello to their new conference neighbors and perhaps generating a little interest among conference residents about Morgantown. On that note, I wonder how many KU fans made the trip to Morgantown last weekend, and what they thought of the place. If you went, let me know your thoughts below.
In case you missed it, KU fell just a bit short on Saturday, losing 59-10. Schumm told me he has a yellow West Virginia shirt that he’ll be sporting at the meeting.
“I told them I would wear it, but I never said for how long,” Schumm said.
Schumm ought to just take his lumps and feel lucky. I’m surprised that blowout loss didn’t trigger some clause in the wager that required Schumm to wear the entire Mountaineer mascot uniform.
Though that may not have been all bad. I think the Mountaineer mascot comes with a musket and moonshine. (West Virginia officials may dispute the moonshine part of this, but anybody who has seen their atmosphere at a football game would confirm moonshine has to be involved.) I don’t know how much the musket would add, but I’m pretty sure the moonshine would improve most City Commission meetings.
This one is a lot like me staring at a weight bar with about 200 pounds on it: There are more questions than answers.
But I’ve been getting several calls from members of the Lawrence Athletic Club about what the future holds at that facility.
As we reported in March, Wichita-based Meritrust Credit Union filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court seeking ownership of the Lawrence Athletic Club, 3201 Mesa Way, after it alleged LAC owner Rick Sells and his corporation Junkyard’s Jym defaulted on a $2.4 million note.
According to Douglas County property records, Meritrust indeed owns the real estate of the athletic club. That is as expected. The court records indicated Sells did not contest the credit union taking over ownership of the facility. The ownership issue, though, was clouded because another group — The Caspian Group, which is led by longtime Lawrence landlord George Paley — won a nearly $400,000 judgment against Junkyard’s Jym in Douglas County District Court last year, which stemmed from a lease dispute at another location. Sources tell me, though, that a settlement was reached that resolved any claim The Caspian Group may have had against the LAC property.
Even though Meritrust took over ownership of the facility, it never had an intention of running it. What several sources said happened is that Meritrust worked out an agreement with Sells to continue operating the club that he founded nearly 30 years ago.
But now there are questions about whether that relationship will continue. I’ve heard from upwards of a dozen folks now that talk around the club is that either an ownership change or at least a change in the operations of the club is imminent.
Then, there is one other sign that is a bit curious. It is an actual sign. Meritrust has put up a sign next to the club’s entrance advertising the credit union. The sign doesn’t say anything about pending changes, so maybe Meritrust is just seeking to advertise itself to club members. But the sign wasn’t there a few days ago. It popped up shortly after speculation started spreading across town that something was up at LAC.
I’ve put in multiple calls to Sells and stopped by the club to see him over the past several days, but have had no luck in getting a comment from him. An employee at the club declined to comment. An attorney for Meritrust also did not return a phone call seeking comment. A manager with the local Genesis Health Club also didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. I called Genesis because there has been speculation that the large Wichita-based health club chain is set to take over operations of LAC. But that very easily could be false speculation. Genesis’ name frequently comes up anytime there is speculation about a health club in the region.
Certainly speculation is a stock I trade in here at Town Talk. Normally, though, I don’t print speculation regarding businesses that may be faltering. I don’t feel it is fair to report unconfirmed information that could negatively impact the livelihood of a business’ owners and employees.
But I have given the operator of the business ample opportunity to simply say there is nothing to this, and I’ve given the owner of the property opportunity to respond as well. And, importantly, I think the nature of a health club business makes it a bit more imperative that consumers be informed of any potential changes. So often health clubs operate on multi-month memberships that are many times pre-paid.
Unfortunately, I’ve covered several health club closings or ownership changes over the years, and the issue of what happens to a person’s membership to a club often ends up being a sticky one.
Anyway, take all of this for whatever you think it is worth. As I mentioned, there are more questions than answers.
Now, back to this heavy weight bar. Here’s my No. 1 question: Why did I ever believe my wife would help lift this thing off me?
Some restaurants hang dollar bills from their walls, while others hang windows from their ceilings.
What? You haven’t heard of that? It is the thing at downtown Lawrence’s newest restaurant, Loopy’s, which is on the ground floor of the 901 Building at Ninth and New Hampshire.
If you remember, we reported back in September that a trio of restaurant and marketing executives had teamed up to sign a deal to locate a new restaurant/wine bar in a corner of the multi-story apartment and office building.
Well, the business is having its soft opening today and expects to roll out its full menu and bar later this week. But what it already has in great supply are windows. There are dozens and dozens of windows suspended from the ceiling and hanging from the walls of the restaurant.
Billy Pilgrim, a Lawrence marketing executive and one of the co-owners of the business, said the design fits in well with the restaurant’s goal of becoming a Lawrence original. “I don’t think there is anything quite like it in Lawrence,” Pilgrim said.
For one thing, it may be the only restaurant in town that has about a hundred people living directly above it. Pilgrim thinks a restaurant that intersects with where people live is going to have a bit of a different feel than an ordinary restaurant and bar.
As for the food, that’s being handled by the other two partners in the business: David Lewis, the founder of the recently closed Milton’s restaurant; and longtime Lawrence chef Sula Teller, who also happens to be married to Pilgrim.
The menu has breakfast — which will be served from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — lunch/dinner, and late-night options.
On the breakfast side, you’ll be able to get everything from “daily porridge” — no word on whether you have to share a table with a bear — to lots of take-out items like granola, breads and pastries to slightly more complex items like a frittata or apple frangipani, which are stuffed apples with roasted nuts, toast and butter. The place also will offer a full-line of coffees, including espressos and lattes.
Lunch and dinner items include a large dose of flatbreads and pizzas. The menu includes about a dozen pizza items, including classics such as sausage and pepperoni to ones such as sweet potato and speck ham. The menu also includes salads and soups.
The happy hour and late-night menu will include the pizzas, but also will have a variety of fruit and cheese trays, gourmet olives, and plates of smoked salmon and trout. Of course the hour wouldn’t be all that happy unless some adult beverages also were offered. The restaurant will have a well-stocked wine cellar, and the menu I’ve seen lists about 35 craft beers coming from as close as Free State Brewery to as far away as places such as California, Colorado, Canada and Belgium.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is rolling out its offerings in phases. Pilgrim told me many of the menu items are available today, but the full-line of offerings won’t be available until later this week.
Knology set to drop WGN, RFD TV and other networks from cable lineup; Baker files plans for $1.2 million wetland education center; study finds Lawrence has among the lowest development fees in the region
News and notes from around town:
• Oh my. Fans of Cubs baseball and country music are in for a shock. Lawrence’s Knology cable television system is set to drop several channels, including the Cubs’ WGN network and RFD TV, a network that shows country music and programming aimed at a rural audience.
Knology’s top Lawrence official confirmed to me that the company is in the process of dropping WGN from its cable lineup effective Dec. 31.
But there are other changes coming before then. Beginning tomorrow, Knology will drop RFD TV, Family Net and the TV Guide Channel, which shouldn’t be confused with the guide button that is on your cable remote. That on-screen guide will continue to be in place.
Debra Schmidt, system manager for Knology Kansas, told me the decisions have been difficult but are part of a much bigger picture of what is going on in the cable industry.
The big players in the cable industry — think ESPN and Food Network and such — are gaining more and more leverage over cable companies all the time. The big programming companies bundle their popular networks together with their less popular networks and require cable providers to take the whole bunch or none at all. As a result, fees that the cable companies must pay to the big-time programmers have been increasing.
Schmidt said in order to control costs, Knology has had to make some tough decisions about dropping some smaller cable networks that don’t have such leverage.
The folks at RFD TV are not taking the decision sitting down. An executive with RFD TV recently flew into Lawrence to discuss the issue with Lawrence city commissioners, and the mayor did send a letter to Knology asking it to reconsider its decision to drop RFD TV. But Schmidt said the change will continue as planned.
Two other channels also will be dropped from the system beginning tomorrow: Blue Highways, a network that features older music and tends to lean towards the Americana side of things; and Family Net TV.
It looks like some of the shows on the networks are available for viewing on the Web sites of the networks.
• Here’s another sign that the South Lawrence Trafficway actually is going to get built, and no this one doesn’t involve icicles in Hades. (Don’t worry, though, that still applies to the Cubs and the World Series.)
Baker University has filed plans at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to build a $1.2 million wetland education center near the wetlands that the university is creating as part of the mitigation efforts for the South Lawrence Trafficway project.
The plans call for a 10,000-square-foot wetland education center that will have a large display area, two classrooms, a kitchen, a gift shop and office space. The project also calls for a 3,000-square-foot maintenance building for the property. The project is set to be built near the main entrance of the wetlands area, which is at 1365 North 1250 Road.
Roger Boyd, Baker’s director of the wetlands, told me he expects the new building can accommodate up to 170 people at a time for presentations and other related activities. Baker is betting that the education center will draw interest from the general community, but particularly will be a popular place for school field trips.
“The display area will have a lot of exhibits about what to look for when you are out here, and about why wetlands are important,” Boyd said.
Baker already has moved a new house to the site, which will provide a place for the resident manager of the wetlands to live. I believe the house came from just east of Haskell Avenue and was one of the handful of houses that are in the path of the trafficway.
The wetland center and the restoration or creation of about 300 acres of new wetlands are being funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation to compensate for the loss of about 60 acres of wetlands that will be lost to the SLT project. As part of the mitigation plan, Baker will receive about $9 million as an endowment to manage the wetland property.
Baker, Boyd said, hasn’t yet received that money, but is expected to in fall 2013. Boyd said the university wants to begin the planning and approval process now so construction on the center could begin in March 2014 with an opening in fall 2014.
“I’m still pinching myself,” said Boyd, who has been officially overseeing the care of the wetlands since 1982 and has been wrapped up in all the legal wrangling of the SLT project. “I’m still having a hard time believing that it actually is going to happen.”
• While we’re talking about projects that have taken a long time to develop in Lawrence, there is a new study out that refutes some perceptions about Lawrence’s business-unfriendly environment.
A group of business students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Society for Industrial Office Realtors have released a new report that looks at the amount of fees cities in the area charge for commercial and industrial development projects.
Lawrence ended up being one of the clear-cut bargains in the area. Lawrence had the third lowest fee total in the office building category and the second lowest total in the industrial building category.
In both cases, the fees charged in Lawrence were more than $200,000 less than what were charged in the most expensive communities. Interestingly, the highest fees charged were in two communities often touted as being more business-friendly than Lawrence: Overland Park and Lenexa.
The authors of the study submitted actual architectural site plans to the planning department of each city, and asked the department to provide a fake invoice for fees that would be due on the project. The first project was for a $9.6 million, 60,000-square-foot office building on a 10-acre site. Here’s a look at the total development fees for each community:
— Blue Springs, Mo.: $98,092 l — Columbia, Mo.: $46,801 — Gardner: $145,428 — Grandview, Mo.: $92,479 — Independence, Mo.: $79,179 — Kansas City, Mo.: $130,751 — Lawrence: $48,057 — Leawood: $98,181 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $130,991 — Lenexa: $261,318 — Liberty, Mo.: $117,091 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $122,411 — Olathe: $188,972 — Overland Park: $248,773 — Riverside, Mo.: $37,760
The second project was for a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot warehouse industrial building on about 15 acres of property. Here’s a look at those fees:
— Blue Springs, Mo.: $100,919 — Columbia, Mo.: $71,894 — Gardner: $199,423 — Grandview: $86,091 — Independence, Mo.: $185,869 — Kansas City, Mo.: $134,650 — Lawrence: $48,768 — Leawood: $110,962 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $115,729 — Lenexa: $334,873 — Liberty, Mo.: $160,887 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $169,282 — Olathe: $267,881 — Overland Park: $337,482 — Riverside, Mo.: $44,360
This group did the same study in 2010, and the results were much the same: Lawrence was near the bottom in terms of fees charged.
The findings could be spun a couple of different ways in Lawrence. One is that leaders could tout how aggressive Lawrence is in trying to attract business to the community. But another viewpoint might be whether Lawrence is charging too little for development fees, causing general taxpayers to subsidize a service that is supposed to be supported by fees. The city has done some studying on that question and doesn't believe it is the case. Many of the fees — especially in Johnson County — are impact fees for roads, parks and even art that Lawrence simply doesn't charge.
The entire study raises an interesting question: How much do development fees play into the decision making of developers? I haven’t done all the math, but I suspect many of these communities with higher fees have had higher job growth rates than Lawrence has. I know many of them have a greater percentage of business and industry as a part of their tax base than Lawrence does.
So, how does this play into the mantra that Lawrence is unfriendly to business? Well, if you hear people saying that Lawrence charges outrageous fees — and I hear that sometimes — you might want to take those comments with a grain of salt.
But it also is worth remembering there are a couple of different types of development processes in Lawrence. The one studied here is for a developer that is proposing to build on a shovel-ready site. There are a few shovel-ready commercial and industrial sites in Lawrence, but it would be interesting to see how our inventory stacks up against other communities. My guess is we have less.
Often, development of any size in Lawrence requires a developer to rezone a piece of property to fit his or her needs. When people think of some of the more high profile business squabbles or rejections in Lawrence — such as Wal-mart of several years ago, Lowe’s more recently or plans for an industrial park near the Lawrence Municipal Airport — those often had zoning issues attached to them.
So, what I’m saying here, is I don’t think this study is going to end the debate about whether Lawrence is adequately business-friendly enough. Imagine that — a debate in Lawrence continuing on.
• Town Talk is taking a day off tomorrow, and I plan on debating no one. (Although that will require me hiding from my family all day in my basement, but I’m willing to give it a try.) Town Talk will return on Monday.
National boutique Francesca’s Collections coming to downtown; nearly 3,000 runners slated to participate in Saturday’s Ugly Sweater Run; organizers planning to bring Color Run back for 2013
News and notes from around town:
• It appears another growing, national specialty retailer is targeting downtown Lawrence.
It looks like Francesca’s Collections is preparing to move into the long vacant space at 742 Massachusetts St. If you are having a hard time picturing that spot, it is just north of Teller’s restaurant.
I haven’t gotten confirmation from the company about the deal, but the retailer has filed for a sign permit at Lawrence City Hall. That’s usually a pretty good indication a deal has been sealed.
At first I was very excited about this news, but that was mainly because I misread the permit. I thought it was Fraschilla’s Collections, as in Fran Fraschilla, former St. John’s University basketball coach and current ESPN college basketball commentator. Just think of the wonders that man’s collections would include: Super industrial strength ear plugs to block out Dick Vitale, as well as tips on how to stay on Bob Knight’s good side. (Tip No. 1: Never meet Bob Knight.)
But no, this is Francesca’s Collections. I don’t know who Francesca is, but I’m sure there will be plenty of people excited about her entry into Lawrence. According to its Web site, the retailer is a traditional type of boutique that offers women’s clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry and a few gift items.
The company has at least four locations in the Kansas City metro area, including at Oak Park Mall, Town Center Plaza, and Country Club Plaza.
The deal continues a recent trend of growing national or regional retailers targeting downtown. Off the top of my head, there have been White House Black Market, Ten Thousand Villages, and if you remember, we reported last month a store called Earthbound Trading Company is coming to downtown, although we haven’t yet seen official word of which spot they will be taking.
• I don’t know if Francesca’s plans to sell ugly holiday sweaters, but you’ll have a chance to see plenty in downtown this weekend.
As we previously reported, an event called The Ugly Sweater Run is coming to downtown Lawrence. But we now have more details about the run. It is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday with the start/finish and celebration area slated for Watson Park. City officials believe the 2 p.m. start time will ensure all the horses from the Downtown Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade — which starts at 11 a.m. — will be cleared from the area. (Although it would be interesting to see how a 1,000-pound-plus draft horse reacts to a man in a lime green sweater adorned with candy canes, snow flakes and phrases that involve “ho, ho, ho.”)
But the big news is just how many people want to come to downtown Lawrence and run a race wearing an ugly sweater. Bob Sanner with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau said 2,200 runners already have signed up for the event, and a favorable weather forecast has organizers hopeful the event will hit the 3,000 mark.
If this crazy event sounds a bit like the oddity that was The Color Run in September — an event in which runners wore white shirts and then got sprayed with colored corn starch — you are correct.
The same company that organized The Color Run is organizing the The Ugly Sweater Run, which also will be happening in nine other cities across the country.
Evidently the company thinks Lawrence is a good running community or else it has figured out that if you offer to sell beer outside afterward, locals will come to about any event. (Samuel Adams is the event sponsor of the Ugly Sweater Run, if that tells you anything about the post race celebration planned for Watson Park.)
Sanner confirmed race organizers are planning to bring The Color Run back to Lawrence in 2013. Organizers tentatively have set the date for Sept. 14. This year’s Color Run race drew about 7,000 runners to downtown.
Lecompton and Downtown Lawrence’s Christmas parade both garner national media attention; Lawrence ranks low in new per capita income report, while Manhattan soars
News and notes from around town:
• Forget the fiscal cliff, forget the Middle East conflict, heck, even forget Black Friday (I wish I could). The national media finally has found a worthy place to sink its teeth into: Douglas County.
Lawrence and Douglas County have received a pair of high-profile articles from the national media in recent days.
At the top of the list is little Lecompton and its tireless top-hat-clad promoter. If you have ever been to an event in Lecompton, chances are you either met or at least saw Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. Well, now so too has The New York Times.
The Times last week ran an article on Lecompton and Bahnmaier’s efforts to get the town of about 600 people national recognition as Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” hits the big screen.
The movie is based on the book “Team of Rivals,” which mentions Lecompton and the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution that set in motion a series of political events that would culminate with Lincoln’s election.
Bahnmaier has been contacting media outlets throughout the state and region, urging them to take a look at Lecompton’s history.
As he told The Times, Lecompton should not play second fiddle to more well-known Civil War sites such as Fort Sumter, Gettysburg or Appomattox.
“None of those places would be important had the events not occurred here in Lecompton,” Bahnmaier told The Times.
The article is a good primer on Lecompton’s importance in the broader picture of the Civil War and Lincoln’s rise to power. But even more than that, it is just nice recognition for a man who has devoted himself to ensuring Lecompton’s important role in national history is not forgotten.
By the sound of things, Bahnmaier has gotten fairly excited about the surge in national interest in Lecompton. The Times’ article revealed that Bahnmaier routinely dines on a turkey sandwich at Kroeger’s Country Meats in Lecompton. But on a recent afternoon, “he was so excited about the possibility of national coverage of the town’s history that he allowed himself a quarter-pound cheeseburger.”
Now, that’s pretty excited.
The second recent article has organizers of Lawrence’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade excited. The parade will make its way down Massachusetts Street for the 20th time at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The folks at USA Today named the parade as one of “10 Great Places to Put a Spin on the Christmas Spirit.” The article promotes the parade as one of the few places where you can still get that old-fashioned Christmas feel.
Lawrence, however, has some interesting competition. One is The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hotel is Christmas themed all year round. It features a singing Santa and a nearby gift shop that has “tens of thousands” of holiday accessories.
That sounds like pure Hell. It may be the only hotel in the country where Norman Bates visiting your shower may improve your stay.
Then there is something called Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. It involves people dressed up in the Victorian clothing of Dickens’ era. It also includes something called “bed races.”
No thank you. My wife had me train for one of those once. It involved me on a roll-away cot, my basement stairs and her giving me a big push.
I knew there was a reason I never liked Dickens.
• There is a new report out that probably won’t cause Lawrence to garner any national headlines. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its estimates for 2011 per capita income in each of the country’s 366 metro areas.
Lawrence isn’t likely to land on any “best of” lists in this category. The Lawrence metro area — which is all of Douglas County — has a per capita income of $33,379, which ranks it 271 out of the 366 metro areas. There is good news though. Lawrence’s per capita income grew in 2011, which was not the case in 2010. In fact, for the first time since 2007, every metro area in the country saw an increase in per capita income. Lawrence’s per capita income grew by 3.5 percent for the year. Nationally, however, the average metro area saw its per capita income grow by 4.3 percent. If those are the Joneses up ahead, we’re not keeping up.
I’ll tell you a community that is, though: Manhattan. Our friends in the K-State capital now have an average per capita income of $43,593. That’s right, folks in Manhattan have about $10,000 more in per capita income than folks in Lawrence. (This is normally where I would make some sort of math-related joke involving Wildcats, but it appears they understand math better than we do.) Manhattan’s per capita income growth rate was 6.4 percent in 2011, and the city now has the 55th highest per capita income of any metro area in the country.
And you thought the beating we took on the football field was bad.
Lawrence leaders long have pointed to the city’s role as a university community as a drag on per capita income. There are certainly many university communities that suffer from low per capita incomes as the result of students who drag down the average. But anymore, it seems there are just as many university communities that have diversified their economies and have negated the downward income pressure create by low-earning students.
Here’s a look at several communities. Some are university towns, while others are not. I mainly picked regional communities and others I thought you would be interested in:
— Lawrence: $33,379; 3.5 percent growth — Ames, Iowa: $37,429; 6.1 percent growth — Austin, Texas: $40,455; 3.9 percent growth — Boulder, Colo.: $51,893; 3.7 percent growth — Columbia, Mo.: $37,350; 4.1 percent growth — Iowa City, Iowa: $41,277; 6.1 percent growth — Jefferson City, Mo.: $35,453; 3.2 percent growth — Joplin, Mo.: $31,408; 3.9 percent growth — Kansas City Mo./Kan.: $43,062; 3.9 percent growth — Lincoln, Neb.: $39,018; 4.8 percent — Lubbock, Texas: $34.573; 1.9 percent growth — Manhattan: $43,593; 6.4 percent growth — Oklahoma City, Okla.: $40,002; 5.9 percent growth — Omaha, Neb.: $44,470; 4.4 percent growth — St. Joseph, Mo.: $34,189; 4.8 percent growth — Springfield, Mo.: $33,302; 4.1 percent growth — Topeka: $37,765; 5.2 percent growth — Tulsa, Okla.: $42,236; 6.8 percent growth — Waco, Texas: $33,943; 2.7 percent growth — Wichita: $38,568; 4.4 percent growth