Reckless. Irresponsible. Bad business. That's what the current push to do away with the Harvey County Economic Development Council and the Kansas Logistics Park truly is.
Those working to that end have talking points — and some valid concerns. They talk about the amount of money spent. They talk about how much the city and county have spent on the Kansas Logistics Park.
And the sum of funds spent at the KLP is substantial. Approximately $11 million of local funds have been poured into the project. To date, no company has broken ground.
The public should be concerned — as concerned as the EDC, city and county are. The public needs to be asking not how to get rid of the EDC, but what can be done to support the effort to recruit new industry.
In business terms here's where we are: the paint section of our store is fully stocked, maybe even a little overstocked. We've invested in our product, and have plenty of it to move. We need customers.
When business finds itself in that situation, does it fire all the staff and walk away?
Nope. It throws a sale, advertises more and tries to get people to walk down that paint aisle. Maybe offering a bargain or two to entice new customers while reaching out to long time, loyal customers.
That's what we as a community need to do with the KLP. We need to attract customers — otherwise taxpayers in this community will be left holding onto a very heavy five gallon bucket of paint to pay for.
Folks, we're all in. The city and county took a Field of Dreams approach to this — thinking that if we built it, the industry would come. There was never a guarantee. There was no company out there telling them "we'll come if you build this thing, so get started." Decision makers chose to get started, and take a risk.
Then Tindall walked through our doors — an established, multi-state, multi-million company — with the desire and a plan to build a facility. They stepped up and put some skin in the game, buying acres of land in an industrial park that, at the time, didn't have the infastructure they needed.
New Millenimum Wind Energy, a start-up company, came knocking next. Their project was slowed by research and development, though they are getting ready to building a prototype. Congress' lack of a backbone and ability to make a decision has submarined their project as it has forced slowdown in the industry.
And since that time, crickets. At least in the eyes of the public. But there's plenty going on.
Behind the scenes the EDC continues to recruit — giving tours of the park to prospects. Tours to companies looking for a place to build a plant and put people to work — including some that anticipate hiring numbers in the hundreds. They talk with site selectors who represent companies who are working in secret. We don't hear or see the work, but the work continues.
No one has signed on the dotted line, these companies are waiting on elections, Congress and politics before investing anywhere. Some of these companies have nothing to do with wind or alternative energies. The KLP was never about one industry, or even wind. It is about industry. The EDC cares that a company will be a good fit for the community and be successful— not about what kind of widget a company wants to make.
Meanwhile a drum beat has started. Get rid of the very folks who continue to try and fill up the KLP in an economic and political climate that makes it nearly impossible.
The community has a decision to make. We simply can't afford to walk away and leave ourselves holding the bag on the KLP. If the EDC isn't going to be our recruitment arm — who will it be? What will their real interests be?
We believe the EDC needs to be recruiting — and they need help. City commissioners, county commissioners and private real estate developers all need to be a part of the team. Old hurts, personality differences, grudges and childishness need to go away.
It's time for a big decision — and we have to get this one right. There is no margin for error — and we don't have time for recklessness, irresponsiblity or bad business.
— Kansan editorial board