Monthly Archives: June 2008

Should the city incentivize downtown redevelopment?

I noted with some interest Sunday a line in Brent Wistrom’s piece about the Warren Old Town $6 million loan: “This is the first time Wichita has considered loaning taxpayer money to a business, finance officials and other observers say.”

I’ve got to take issue with that one: Anyone remember the Minnesota Guys? How about CORE?

The debate over whether the Wichita City Council should financially partner with downtown developers is a legitimate one. But again, I wonder why it’s just now surfacing when the city clearly has bought into other projects in the past. Admittedly, the terms of the city’s partnership with Warren are a little different, but beyond that …

And from where I sit, I don’t recall developers lining up to buy Wichita buildings and do downtown projects on their own. Cities partner with developers all the time, and a partnership with Bill Warren looks to me to be consistent with past precedent.

Minisa Bridge blues

There’s a business I used to frequent — often a few times a week — before the Minisa Bridge in Riverside closed for repairs. Lately, I’ve been making an effort to get back there even though it’s out of my way. (That bridge can’t reopen too soon for me.)

What brought me back is how good I used to feel walking in that shop. Invariably, the radio station playing in the store was the same one I had on in my car. More importantly, there was an employee who always seemed to be there and never failed to greet me, no matter how many other customers were there.

Over the years, this employee came to call me “C” in that friendly sort of way you nickname someone you like. I came to call him “D.” D and I would chitchat, and he happily stocked any of my special requests. Shopping at this store was less of a chore than it could have been just because D made it so enjoyable.

I actually came to feel guilty that I was shopping other stores because the bridge is out. So I made a point the other day to stop in. D wasn’t there. A few days later, I returned, and D still wasn’t there. Another employee confirmed my suspicion: D is gone.

Apparently, D called to say he wasn’t going to make it in one day — something it sounds like he may have occasionally done. He was told that if he didn’t make it in, he shouldn’t ever come back. So he didn’t. This same employee also tells me that the store is now calling D regularly to plead for his return.

Now, I certainly don’t know the full story. But if store management didn’t realize what they had in D, then shame on them. No employee is perfect. Sometimes the best ones are particularly idiosyncratic and perhaps need to be given a little more leeway — as long as they’re worth it, of course.

I’m not going to picket the store or anything, and I won’t swear off going there. But if someone doesn’t rectify this D situation, I’m not going out of my way to go back. In fact, I can’t say I’ll swing by regularly even after the bridge reopens.

A “neat pilot’s shop” is getting national attention

As a flight student, I’ve stopped by The Aviator’s Attic inside Yingling Aviation to buy a study guide and some other items. Whenever I stop in, I can’t help but take some time to browse.

You don’t have to be a pilot — or a pilot wanna-be — to enjoy the store. Besides pilot equipment, books and gadgets, Aviator’s Attic is also a boutique of aviation-themed speciality items. The store is now getting some national attention.

An Aircraft Owners and Pilots blog calls the store a “neat pilot’s shop.” In fact, AOPA senior editor Alton Marsh goes on to say it is “one of the neatest in the land.”

Etheredge comment gets a yee-haw

Saw Cabaret Old Town’s “Gone Country!” show last night. Very fun. If you want to go, there are only two shows left, and it looks like tomorrow night’s may be sold out.

In between songs and silly sketches, there was a line that slammed Wild West World founder Thomas Etheredge for being — and this is the polite version — not a nice man. Now, I’m not commenting one way or the other, but you should have heard the audience. They hooted and hollered their approval. One man near the front row was practically on his feet clapping in agreement.

As one witty person commented, “Must have been a subcontractor.”

Oil taking toll on Wichita’s housing market

In Saturday’s Eagle, Plaza Real Estate President John McKenzie – who is one of the straightest shooters in Wichita’s residential market – is going to tie Wichita’s increasingly soft home sales numbers to the price of oil.

Existing and new home sales in April were at four-year monthly lows – despite a relatively steady inventory of homes for sale and some strength in certain market sectors.

It’s an interesting correlation, to be certain: Potential homebuyers and sellers confronted with rising energy costs, food costs and the trickle-down bad news that oil prices bring are becoming so nervous about their economic situations that they’re leaving the housing market.

The statistics seem to back him up. Perception does indeed appear to be reality. And if you’re looking for a rebound, McKenzie doesn’t think one is coming until Congress cracks down on oil speculators.

Interesting idea: bulk energy buying plan for small business

Large companies are able to negotiate lower electricity and gas rates based on volume, but small businesses usually have to take what they’re offered. Yesterday, the city of Boston unveiled an interesting idea for lowering energy costs for small business. The city of Boston is looking at creating a pool of small businesses to negotiate bulk electricity and gas rates.

The city would create the pool of at least 200 businesses, but wouldn’t be involved in the operations. The businesses would pay the power companies directly and the energy broker would be paid as a percentage of the savings. The city wouldn’t pay anything on an ongoing basis.

Now, if only I could form one of those buying pools and get discounted power to run my air conditioner this summer.

A change in the winds at Wild West World?

After a week of pessimism over some procedural infighting, there is now a fair amount of optimism that a Florida development company, AHG Group, will close a $2.15 million deal Monday to buy Wild West World.

Doug Spangler, the group’s Wichita representative, called the purchase a “done deal” Thursday afternoon and said plans to develop the property should be forthcoming soon.

Fewer catalogs coming next Christmas

A firm that does forecasts for the paper products industry is predicting a sharp decrease in the number of catalogs in the fall and winter because their sales are down and the cost of coated paper is up.

Bad news for people who love to daydream about Christmas, which is about everyone. Although I guess it’s good news for mail carriers and their weary shoulders.

Is Bank of America’s Lewis next?

That’s a question posed on another blog today.

Bank of America’s acquisition of mortgage giant Countrywide have some people wondering if Lewis, the bank’s CEO, awaits a similar fate to his cross-town Charlotte, N.C., competitor, Ken Thompson, former Wachovia chief executive. Part of Thompson’s downfall, you may recall, was making the decision to purchase Golden West, the holding company of World Savings Bank, which also was steeped in the mortgage business.

But one could argue that in Lewis’ case, he and Bank of America shareholders know what they are getting into, versus Thompson and others at Wachovia, whose acquisition of Golden West came about the same time the nation’s mortgage business was ready to tank.

The question is, should Lewis, Thompson or any other chief executive of a major firm take the fall for one misstep, especially when their previous moves proved bountiful for their companies?

It’s Wednesday afternoon …

And still no signed contract from AHG Group, a Florida development company, to buy Wild West World. Five days remain for the Floridians to close on the $2.15 million deal, or the option returns to Amusement Holdings, a group of Wichita investors who bid $2 million for the park last week.

Kinda interesting how a bid in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seems to give way to ongoing negotiations, isn’t it?

Stay tuned on Kansas.com for the latest.

Cooler than normal temps latest corn threat

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the threat of warmer temperatures to human health and the national economy.

But the latest emerging threat to the already-endangered 2008 Midwest corn harvest is just the opposite. Cooler than normal temperatures are the problem, according to the latest data from AccuWeather.

Temperatures of the last week have been two to four degrees below normal. A continuation of that trend could push back the maturation date of the crop.

Ag experts use growing degree days, based on temperature, to measure corn growth. From June 17 to 23, the heart of the corn belt saw 14 percent fewer degree days than normal.

Coffee Break: On Boeing, Medicare and Wal-Mart leaving KC

Jerry SiebenmarkEagle banking reporter Jerry Siebenmark turns 42 years old today. Personally, I don’t think he looks a day over 41 years and 365 days.

Enjoy today’s links, Jerry:

  • The Wall Street Journal says as many as a third of Boeing and Airbus orders for new jets could be postponed or canceled because of rising fuel prices.
  • Reuters reports that Goldman Sachs cut its rating on Boeing to sell. The stock is down more than 5 percent today.
  • Wal-Mart is pulling its annual convention out of Kansas City. It was the largest annual event in KC and the 2009 convention was expected to put about $8 million into the KC economy, the Star reports.
  • Starting next week, companies will have to submit bids if they want to continue selling equipment to Medicare, the New York Times says. It’s not a change that the equipment makers are accepting without a fight.