Lawrence City Commission to consider expanding fast-track incentives program
photo by: Chris Conde
Lawrence city commissioners will soon decide if they want to expand the city’s fast-track incentives program for industrial projects, allowing a beverage distribution company to apply for incentives under the program.
As part of its meeting Tuesday, the commission will consider expanding the Catalyst incentive program to allow applications from industrial expansion projects in Lawrence VenturePark and on privately owned property within the city. Currently, only industrial expansion projects in East Hills Business Park qualify for the program. New construction for industrial purposes in either business park or anywhere else in the city also qualifies.
The topic comes to the commission as part of a potential Catalyst Program incentives request from Standard Beverage Corporation, according to a city staff memo to the commission. Standard Beverage is proposing a multiphase expansion to its central facility located within the Lawrence Santa Fe Industrial Park at 2300 Lakeview Road. The expansion will be between 30,000 and 100,000 square feet and cost between $8 million and $15 million.
The original Lawrence facility was built in 1989 and has been expanded two times over the years, according to the memo. With recent state legislative changes allowing additional alcohol sales at Kansas grocery stores, the company has increased its customer base, requiring it to expand its facilities and hire more staff. The company recently added 24 new full-time employees in Lawrence and it estimates the proposed expansion would add 8-10 full-time employees at the Lawrence facility.
Standard Beverage would like to apply for incentives for its expansion under the Catalyst Program instead of the city’s usual incentives program.
In a letter to the commission, Matthew Gough, an attorney representing Standard Beverage, states that the company already employs more than 100 people in Lawrence and is evaluating the feasibility of constructing a second warehouse and distribution center on land adjacent its existing facility. The letter, which is included along with the memo, states that ideally, the company would like to connect the new building with its existing one, potentially making the project an expansion and ineligible for the Catalyst Program. The letter notes that the commission previously expanded the Catalyst Program from just the city-owned business parks to privately owned land out of fairness and that the same rationale should apply to expansions.
City staff states that upon review of the request it was apparent that existing industrial businesses outside of East Hills Business Park that want to expand their facilities are at a disadvantage under the current Catalyst Program requirements. Staff is recommending that the commission change the eligibility requirements for the program to include expansion projects in Lawrence VenturePark and on privately owned industrial property “in order to create a level playing field.”
Under the Catalyst Program, qualifying projects receive a sales tax exemption on construction materials and at least a 10-year, 50% property tax abatement. An additional 20% abatement would be provided if the project meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines. Projects don’t have to pay city application fees, city bond origination fees and do not go through the usual incentives application process. The usual process requires certain job and wage requirements and a review by the Public Incentives Review Committee and the City Commission. Under the Catalyst Program, the project only needs to meet certain square footage and investment thresholds and to receive approval from the City Commission.
Standard Beverage began operating in 1935 and opened its first facility in Kansas in 1949, according to the memo. Since then, Standard Beverage has grown to become the state’s largest full-product line distributor of spirits, wine and beer. In addition to Lawrence, the company has facilities in Wichita and Lenexa.
The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.