Monthly Archives: November 2009

More commercial RE pessimism

In case you’re looking for some real estate optimism, stop reading.

If not, Forbes posts a sobering look into the future of commercial real estate.

One word: Bleak.

Layoffs dribbing to a halt

New layoffs in Wichita and Kansas appear to be slowing to a halt.¬† New numbers released today by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas show that the number of laid off workers it is handling is up in November, but only about 2 percent, from October. The biggest percentage increase (7 percent) came in service sector, which makes sense. Those companies tend to feed off local manufacturers for business, and they would feel the squeeze later¬† and lay off later. But these companies are often small and wouldn’t go to the workforce alliance, which means this number is likely underreporting the real number of service sector layoffs all along.

In Kansas, generally, which hasn’t been hit as bad as Wichita, the number of initial claims for unemployment has leveled off since July and ongoing claims has been falling since then. It could mean that some of the unemployed are finding jobs faster than new ones are claiming unemployment. That would be good news.

A better Snuggie?

You learn a lot listening to Wichita’s entrepreneurial sage, Fran Jabara – including never to discount an entrepreneurial idea.

But … I’m about ready to discount this one.

Seriously, there isn’t a market for a Snoopy Snuggie, is there?

Wow, talk about inflammatory

Did you read Bill Wilson’s previous blog? Public ownership of newspapers? Leaving aside the huge issues of journalistic independence and acting as a watchdog on democracy, what must the Tea Party crowd think about this? They’re already livid at the media, and now their tax dollars are being used to subsidize it. That’s got to be 10-times worse than Citibank or General Motors. Talk about poking a hornets’ nest.

Wow. That’s all I’ve got to say.

New stakeholders for newspapers

The state of New Hampshire has apparently decided to start underwriting newspaper ventures. The piece foretells other governmental ventures into our industry, where ad revenues continue to make shareholders nervous.

Many distinct sides to this equation: Can democracy prosper without detailed coverage of its inner workings? Does anyone care any more? Do news consumers want to be affirmed, rather than informed? Can the best interests of readers be preserved with government as an equity stakeholder in a journalistic organization?

Is it a good idea to have government as a stakeholder in journalism? Your thoughts?

The coming commercial crisis?

Here’s an interesting piece again warning that a second real estate bubble – commercial – threatens the U.S. economy.

Local banks continue to reassure us that they’ve been conservative with their commercial lending, and no such calamity awaits Wichita.

But it’s interesting to note how commercial lending has evolved, even in conservative Wichita: Even the region’s most accomplished developers are laboring to find credit for projects.

Potbelly redux

Got a call from the folks representing Potbelly a couple weeks ago. Potbelly is trying to find franchisees in the area. They complained gently about my post from Oct. 28. They thought I’d been a bit harsh in some of my words. I had implied that their brand (the look, feel and culture of the company) was a matter of calculation, rather than an authentic outflow of the original founder’s creativity.

After some thought, I agreed with them. It’s easy to be cynical about large restaurant chains, with their market-tested look, menu and, for many of them, attempt to convey authenticity through a cheerful story of the founder’s history and high ideals. The result, too often, is a depressing sameness and mediocrity among chains.

But, who’s to say that Potbelly is like that. There are chains that are pretty good. It’s unfair to judge until I see what it’s like — and the sandwiches really do sound good.

Best retailers for service

WICHITA — The 10 best retailers for service, according to a survey of shoppers from the National Retail Federation, are:

Amazon.com, Coldwater Creek, HSN, JCPenney, Kohl’s Department Stores, Lands’ End, LL Bean, Nordstrom, Overstock.com, QVC and Zappos.

Funny, they didn’t post a list for the 10 worst.

Wichita ranks 15th in economic performance, but…

I love lists and rankings — I guess everybody does — but they do have their problems. Today, the Milken Institute in California came out with a ranking that put Wichita the 15th best performing city in America, up from 45th in 2008. That’s out of the 200 largest in America. Pretty impressive.

But a quick look confirmed my suspicions: the list relies mostly on job growth figures from last year. Wichita always looks great at the end of the cycle because we go down later than most other cities. Oh well.

A good first step

If there’s been a constant in the three-plus years I’ve covered real estate for the Eagle, it’s been WaterWalk and the steady drumbeat of citizen criticism of a largely inactive project.

Those critics, who largely are justified because as taxpayers they’re equity partners, have reason to be heartened by the aggressive first steps announced by the new man in charge on the east bank, veteran Wichita entrepreneur Jack DeBoer.

A very sage developer told me years ago that there are two kinds of Wichitans: The people unafraid to act, and the people paralyzed by fear, more intent on pointing fingers.

Make no mistake about it: DeBoer falls into the first category, and his decision to pursue commercial traffic at WaterWalk is a decision playing very well, even with some of the project’s harshest critics in the local development industry.

Read More »

Circling the drain

Here’s a little required reading for my commodities speculation fans, courtesy of Rolling Stone.

It becomes a little more obvious, doesn’t it, why all the great verve to convince the easily fooled that commodities markets are governed by supply and demand? Greed.

I remain annoyed, frankly, that President Obama continues to fiddle while these scandals burn.

But as the article points out, the depths to which people have gone over the past 60 years to turn the commodities floor into a casino where only the ordinary man loses probably aren’t correctable in one presidential term.

Or two. Or three. Or four.

Intrust Bank Arena can’t book acts that aren’t touring

Intrust Bank Arena GM Chris Presson had it right when he said in Have You Heard? that the arena can’t control who is on tour and when. He was responding to some heat that IBA has booked mostly country acts since it started announcing performances last month.

After he said it, and after reading more comments today, I started to wonder what acts other arenas in the region have booked around the time IBA opens in January and beyond. And you know what? IBA stacks up quite nicely.

According to Pollstar, these are the acts that have been booked at other arenas in the region in January and beyond (bold indicates those not announced for IBA, which opens Jan. 9):

Sprint Center in KC: Bon Jovi, John Mayer, Taylor Swift, George Strait/Reba McEntire and Tim McGraw.

Ford Center in OKC: Brad Paisley, Mayer and Swift.

BOK Center in Tulsa: Strait/McEntire, McGraw and Bon Jovi.

Qwest Center in Omaha: McGraw, Mayer, Bon Jovi and Strait/McEntire.

That’s it folks: John Mayer. Would the Mayer concert be nice to have and increase the diversity of concerts? Sure. But I bet KC would like to have Paisley, OKC would like to have Bon Jovi, and Tulsa and Omaha would like to have Swift. And I’ve had several friends mention that they’re most excited to see Jeff Dunham, who isn’t scheduled to play any of those other cities.

So who is on tour, after IBA opens, that we’re missing here? Remember, you can’t book them if they’re not touring.