Category Archives: Economy

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.

 

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.”

Financial reform moves through Senate

Here’s a little recap from the Washington Post on the Senate’s progress with financial reform.

I got a special chuckle out of the reference to capitalizing on public anger over Wall Street excesses.

I guess Chris Dodd and his Beltway Boys haven’t been reading this blog.

And in a related development, I’ve just polished off “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis, and watched a couple of his television appearances. Suffice to say that Mr. Lewis hasn’t softened my hardened view of Wall Street bankers.

“Inside the financial world, there is a [mind-set of] ‘please stop us before we kill again,’” Lewis said.

Here’s a piece from the Motley Fool on Lewis, whose take on the aforementioned excesses is pretty interesting.

Wall St. vets: More regulation needed

This group of men seemed to do OK on a regulated Wall Street, and now they’ve come out in favor of tighter financial regulations, according to the New York Times.

In a much different time, admittedly.

Your thoughts?

The return of due diligence

I’m certainly no entrepreneur. No financial magician, either.

But I’m the kind of anal-retentive guy who will spend a year voraciously reading automotive reviews before I even think about approaching a dealer to trade cars. That’s no excuse for buying a Chevrolet Blazer, but I never said I was perfect.

So maybe that’s why I’ve struggled to get this term out of my head this week: Due diligence.

It cropped up twice this week, early as I sat in court listening to the mind-boggling tales of investor after investor who happily plowed thousands into Thomas Etheredge’s Wild West World, largely without so much as a Google of “Thomas Etheredge,” let alone any sticky details like a proforma or a business plan.

I’ve certainly underestimated the spell of a jailhouse conversion, let alone three of them.

And that says nothing of the bankers who handed over bags of money to him, apparently with little more than a hearty “Look me in the eye and hear me well.”

And then due diligence cropped up again as I researched a story on the relative lack of development around Intrust Bank Arena. It seems that business developers have this crazy notion that they’d like to gauge the demographic and traffic around the arena before they buy in and start building restaurants, entertainment venues and shops. It happens that way all across this great country of ours. Go figure.

So if there’s a moral to my week, it’s a growing appreciation of the folks who will follow the arena downtown to do business.

After they do their homework.

Want to meet Obama? Bring your checkbook

Those who know me best know I am rarely speechless.

However, this little gem on Politico about the apparent violent death of professional standards at the Washington Post is absolutely astounding.

Wow.

That’s all I can say.

Wow.

What are your thoughts?

UPDATE: It appears from this link that the Post newsroom was as astonished by this announcement as the rest of us.

UPDATE, PART DEUX: This bright idea is now dead, according to Politico.

All’s well that ends well.

Coldwell Banker and the rumor mill

WICHITA – Wild stories are flying through the local real estate community about Plaza’s decision Friday to affiliate with Coldwell Banker after Stucky & Associates owner Frank Stucky said he dropped the flag, unable to pay its franchise fees.

There are enough of them, frankly, that we’re checking into them.

But I want to give you a little personal philosophy here: Stucky and Plaza president John McKenzie have never been anything less than truthful with me. I’ve known Stucky professionally for 20 years, and his credibility with me is top-notch. McKenzie has also been truthful with me, even at times when it wasn’t in his best business interests to do so.

The message is this: We hear the rumors and we’re listening. But as of today, I don’t expect that the REAL story is anything different than what you’ve read.

UPC bar code fans rejoice

barcodeWe get lots and lots of press releases in our inbox here at Business Casual Central. And frankly, a lot of them are junk. They come from this organization or that PR person based somewhere on a coast and have absolutely no relevance to Wichita, to Kansas, or to just about anything.

Normally, they are met with a quick press of the handy-dandy delete key, never to be seen again. But I got one this morning that caught my eye for some reason. Maybe I’m a little loopy after a restless night, but I found it interesting nonetheless: the 35th anniversary of the Universal Product Code will be celebrated on Wednesday.

How do you celebrate such an event? With a giant UPC-adorned birthday cake, of course.

From the release:

One of the world’s best-known symbols, the U.P.C. comprises a row of 59 machine-readable black and white bars and 12 human-readable digits. Both the bars and the digits convey the same information: the identity of a specific product and its manufacturer.

Originally developed to help supermarkets speed up the checkout process, the first live use of a U.P.C. took place in a Marsh Supermarkets store in Troy, Ohio, on June 26, 1974, when a cashier scanned a package of Wrigley’s gum. It ushered in extraordinary economic and productivity gains for shoppers, retailers and manufacturers alike, with estimated annual cost savings of $17 billion in the grocery sector alone, according to one study.

So when you go to Wal-Mart or Target or wherever on Wednesday, be sure to wish the bar codes a happy birthday.

Ron Prince: Journalism agent?

Here’s a shameless plug for a nice piece of journalism from my colleague Jeffrey Martin, a piece that proves again that college sports is big business. You’d have to go to Wall Street or Detroit, I suspect, to find a CEO who got a better parting gift after running his company aground than the giant bag of money Kansas State gave Ron Prince.

Obviously, I should have applied for the newspaper advisor’s position at K-State. In the Jon Wefald economy, that one probably was good for at least a half-million. Nice, soft landing spot, I suspect.

I wouldn’t let Ron Prince in the same county with my football team, the Oklahoma Sooners. (And for you detail freaks, that county is Cleveland, home of the Big 12′s best football program.)

But … I’d hire him in a minute to negotiate my next raise.

Fed report: farmland values steady, ag credit tightens

Farmland values appeared to stabilize in the first quarter of 2009 for the 10th district, according to a survey of agricultural credit conditions conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

District farmland values held relatively steady after modest declines at the end of 2008. Non-irrigated farmland values rose 1.4 percent during the quarter, and there was no change in the value of irrigated acreage.

The survey of 255 bankers also found that softer farm incomes slowed capital spending, and turbulent agricultural and macroeconomic conditions contributed to tighter agricultural credit conditions.

Collateral requirements edged up and the rate of loan repayment fell for the second straight quarter. The bankers also felt that agricultural credit conditions could weaken further.

The 10th district includes Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, the northern half of New Mexico and the western third of Missouri.

Details on credit card reform

Here’s an interesting explanatory piece on the planks in the credit card reform bill that seems headed to President Obama’s desk for signature.

It’s better reporting that most of the mainstream media has done on the subject, but it doesn’t ask the question I hear most often: What does the bill do to help people who’ve had rates jacked up by the card companies before the bill becomes law?

I’d still be interested in the answer to that question.