Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas to move to New Leaf Plaza

UPDATED — The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas is turning over a New Leaf, so to speak, and moving to the shopping center of the same name at 21st and Amidon.

“It is very accessible and very visible for the public,” says Keith Lawing, president and CEO of the agency that connects workers with employers.

“I really think it’s going to be a perfect location for their new home, although some would have liked for it to stay downtown, I suppose,” says City Council member Jeff Longwell.

“They are at least for a little bit going to keep some of the administration stuff down in the Garvey building,” he says.

The Workforce Alliance had been at the former Commerce Bank building at First and Main downtown and had to scramble to find new space along with other tenants there when building issues, such as a broken elevator and suspended gas service, forced them to go elsewhere.

A site a few blocks down from First and Washington is where the Workforce Alliance temporarily is until the new space is ready.

Lawing says parking had become an issue where the Workforce Alliance was at First and Main.

“We definitely looked downtown,” he says seeking new space. “If we could have found a place that would have been adjacent to a parking garage … it would have been great.”

He says no such place could be found.

Longwell says that initially the Workforce Alliance will take about 26,000 square feet at New Leaf, which is on the southwest corner of the intersection and is home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market.

He says it “is going to be a really nice space.”

“It’s a good location, easily accessible, on a bus route,” Longwell says. “I really like that whole area. It’s kind of coming back a little bit.”

The center used to be called Marina Lakes and had many vacant buildings before A-OK Pawn Shop owner Bruce Harris purchased it.

Lawing says Harris has invested a lot of resources in bringing back the center.

“We really, really appreciate that after the last experience we had.”

Longwell says the Workforce Alliance would like even more space, and it looks like that’s a possibility.

“There’s potential to take over the space that the … Dollar General’s in,” Longwell says. “We kind of asked to see if Dollar General wants out of their lease.”

He says the chain already has a new store nearby on West 13th Street, and he thinks it may not want to renew at New Leaf.

Longwell says he hopes that means the Workforce Alliance can acquire another 15,000 square feet at the center, which he says will be great space for job fairs and other services that the Workforce Alliance provides.

Remodeling soon will be under way to prepare for the agency. Plans are almost complete.

“I want to move April 1st, but everybody looks at me like I’m crazy,” Lawing says. “Realistically, we’re probably looking more like May 1st.”

Longwell says when this site was being debated, he couldn’t resist having some fun while trying to assuage some people’s concerns about it not being downtown.

“It’s only five minutes from downtown – two if you have a challenge coin,” Longwell said, referencing the coin that state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau tried to use to get out of speeding tickets.

He says the joke fell flat.

“I didn’t even get a chuckle.”