Category Archives: Economic development

Two area companies named Exporter of Year finalists

Bunting Magnetics of Newton and Global Parts in Augusta are among five finalists for the 2012 Governor’s Exporter of the Year Award, the Kansas Department of Commerce announced.

The three other finalists are Bergkamp of Salina, Pitsco of Pittsburg and Tank Connections of Parsons.

Winners will be announced June 12 at the annual Kansas Calvary Encampment.

Fifteen Kansas companies were evaluated in the selection of award finalists.

They were evaluated on a number of measures, including number or percentage increase in jobs because of international activities, use of international distributors and joint ventures established.

Fighting over Walmart

The Kansas City Star reports this morning about a feud between two Johnson County cities over where to locate a Walmart.

Roeland Park is accusing neighboring Mission of poaching its Walmart to jumpstart its long-delayed $200 million Gateway project. Roeland Park officials are complaining to state economic officials because the Gateway development has applied for STAR bonds from the state.

“The city of Roeland Park definitely supports redevelopment in any of our sister cities,” Mayor Adrienne Foster told the Star’s Kevin Collison. “What we do not support is when our Number 1 sales tax generator, Walmart, is removed from our city in order for another city’s development to move forward.”


Must reading for a Monday morning

Time for a shameless plug about an excellent weekend piece written by my colleague Dan Voorhis, Why Isn’t Wichita Winning Projects?

It’s interesting to note the criticisms offered by site selectors, particularly the lack of shovel-ready sites, available buildings and one of the city’s more ongoing blemishes, its native inability to market itself.

Particularly in light of what’s going on 20 miles up the road in Newton, where all of the Wichita criticisms have already been met and the city’s busy landing wind power industries for its logistics park.


No sale at Intrust Bank Arena

Imagine the surprise Friday morning when SMG and Sedgwick County officials learned that someone had put Intrust Bank Arena up for sale on LoopNet, a popular commercial real estate marketing web site.

For a quarter on the dollar – $47.2 million, far less than the arena’s $200 million price tag.

“I’m absolutely flabbergasted,” said Ron Holt, assistant Sedgwick County manager, when he learned about the listing Friday morning.

And A.J. Boleski, the manager of the arena for SMG, was even less amused.

Boleski called the man who placed the ad, Florida businessman Delawrence Blue, and asked the listing be taken down. By noon Friday, it was gone.

Contacted by the Eagle Friday morning, Blue never offered a concrete explanation for the sales listing.

But he did admit that he wasn’t trying to sell the arena. His goal: A professional basketball franchise in Wichita in the wake of the National Basketball Association lockout.

Blue said he wanted to place franchises in Wichita, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Seattle, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico and Sunrise, Fla., populating them with ex-players like former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson.

Two rubs: Blue said he has no ownership groups and no arenas, but he expressed a preference for working with SMG.

Boleski, on the other hand, said he’s never heard of Blue or the league. He said that Blue told him he chose SMG because the company puts square footages and other key arena information on its website.

A strange episode for a Friday morning.

“It’s just bizarre,” Boleski said.

More big numbers from the IMAX

Now, I know there’s a legitimate community discussion to be had about public incentives for private business, and about the Wichita City Council’s Mario Mendoza-like batting average on those partnerships.

But if the first month is any indication, the council picked a winner when it approved an industrial revenue bond issue last year for Bill Warren’s IMAX at 21st and Tyler.

What are industrial revenue bonds?

In the growing furor surrounding public-private partnerships in Wichita, one of the things you notice quickly in the Internet comments on these stories is a huge misconception: Industrial revenue bonds are a giveaway of taxpayer money.

In fact, they are not. Here’s some required reading if you’re interested in what an IRB issue actually is.

Generally speaking, the only direct taxpayer involvement comes through tax abatements associated with the issue. While that’s an economic development policy worthy of debate, it’s in use in virtually every municipality in the nation.

Corker: GOP erred on financial reform

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said Thursday that he still thinks a bipartisan financial reform bill can be put into law,  The Tennessean reports.

Corker, who was mayor of Chattanooga during much of that city’s downtown redevelopment, isn’t your average 2010 conservative. He is a proponent of those public-private partnerships that are becoming more controversial by the day in Wichita, partnerships that clearly turned his city around over 40 years.

Not to mention the mention The Tennessean article in which he criticizes the lack of financial regulation of financial markets “in good times.”

Business tax breaks abound

There’s been a good deal of gnashing of teeth in Wichita about the idea of tax breaks to incentivize business.

So this piece from a rapidly growing metropolitan area serves as a reminder of how far some of Wichita’s competitors are willing to go to lure business – let alone a wildly profitable national big-box chain.

Brewer on Fox Business Network

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer appeared on Fox Business Network today to talk about aviation and the Wichita economy. He was this week’s guest on the network’s Mayor Monday segment.

A call to action

Interestingly, a little more than a half-hour of this morning’s brainstorming in Chattanooga was devoted to the “vocal minority,” a group of Wichitans who oppose public-private partnerships to redevelop downtown.

There were several calls to action, including one from Mayor Carl Brewer, who said, “We cannot be intimidated.” Others called out Wichita blogger Bob Weeks and one near the front of the room, away from me, said bluntly, “We have to watch who we elect.”

Quite clearly, the information battle on downtown redevelopment has been joined. I’ll have more on the brainstorming sessions, including the focus on the anti-tax crowd, in Saturday’s Eagle.

Preparing for development

Here’s one statistic that struck me this week in Chattanooga:

Staff at the RiverCity Company, which oversees the local revitalization effort: 12.

Staff at the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., the point organization for Wichita’s growth plan: 3, and sometimes 4.

One of the thoughts percolating through the Visioneering Wichita delegation Thursday was WDDC staffing. President Jeff Fluhr will need more bodies as the effort ramps up.

Philanthropy is going to be essential to get Wichita’s downtown program going. Chattanoogans talk a lot about “motivated local money.”

And one good starting point for a Wichitan who’d like to buy into downtown’s future would be to fund an increase in the WDDC staff.

Visioneering message: Be aggressive

It’s a terrible football analogy, but the central theme of Thursday’s Visioneering Wichita presentations applies: Chattanooga isn’t building a modern downtown by reading the market and reacting; they’re running a full-scale blitz.

We’ll have more on the theme in Friday’s Eagle, but one fascinating example is partially hidden in a south Chattanooga storefront: Create Here is a one-stop shop melding the arts and business education that’s all about “talent retention,” according to Helen Johnson, one of the founders. It’s goal is to give Chattanooga residents the tools to profit from their creativity, growing the city’s talent base and thus its economic foundation.

Create Here doesn’t have anything that Wichita doesn’t: the arts, business education, community activisim.

But what it does remarkably, as Johnson puts it, is fight the perception that all those functions need to be “siloed,” or segregated as separate community institutions.

“What we do, instead, is encourage people to think across all these disciplines as a platform for community change,” Johnson said.

Create Here won’t be around forever, Johnson said. She has no interest in perpetuating it as an institution. But she intends for its wide-ranging programs, from artist recruitment to business planning classes, to live on.