Chamber126

Businesses owners met at Forge Martial Arts for a Chamber meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6.  Some members have expressed concerns recently about what the future of the city will look like from a business perspective.

GW Weld said he could give city officials a list of 100 questions that he feels needs to be answered about the proposed $40 million sports arena.

The owner of Weld Properties questions why a sports arena is a priority for the city, as well the use of STAR bond funding to support it.

“You know, the city has a lot of mechanisms for creating incentives for developers,” Weld said. “So why not a tax abatement or some other more traditional incentives that can attract developers? And you know, at the end of the day, who's going to own this?” 

With major changes on the horizon for Eudora in the next few years with the arrival of Panasonic, the proposed sports arena, further development of Nottingham Center and the hiring of a new city manager, The Eudora Times asked various local business owners for their thoughts on the state of the city’s economic development.

Weld suggested a public town hall to receive answers to his questions. 

“I think the most important thing when it comes to a potential STAR bond and sports complex is that the City Commission needs to take some additional steps in helping the public understand what's actually being proposed,” Weld said. 

Mayor Tim Reazin said the city is trying to diversify industrial and commercial retail offerings to increase the tax base and reduce the burden on current property owners.

He said town halls historically have been poorly attended, which makes him hesitant to host one. Reazin said commission meetings also aren’t attended, which makes it difficult to answer public questions. 

“I do feel like I'm influenced by the community, and these folks have a cause of concern or question. My question back is, what do we do? And who do we allow in town? Because I know there have been questions about competition,” he said. 

Reazin suggested if residents are unable to attend meetings in person that they attend via Zoom. Public comment is available for virtual attendees. 

Barbwire Barbecue owner Jason Musick said he has heard customers ask questions about the details of the sports arena plan. 

“The Nottingham Center really hasn't transpired to what the city officials said it was going to do. So I think that that is a very big concern within the community,” Musick said. “You know, luckily, being in the restaurant, you hear a lot of stuff and get to talk a lot with a lot of different people and I think that's a big concern.” 

Reazin said COVID-19 has negatively affected the Nottingham project, but the city is still actively looking for businesses to fill the center. 

He said the city had been excited about the High 5 bowling and entertainment center, but the company had financial struggles because of COVID and struggled with securing funding.

“We're looking for things that are here for the long haul, not something that's going to come because we gave them a 10-year incentive and as soon as that 10 years is up, they're going to leave,” Reazin said. 

Musick said he is concerned that local businesses will have a harder time keeping their doors open if larger companies come to town.

“We can't sustain the current businesses that we have. And so I mean, Barbwire doesn't live on Eudora alone. We have to get from De Soto and other surrounding communities. And I don't think that's any different than any other small business here in our community,” Musick said. 

“I think the city really has to, they have to think about that, because growth is great. But if you don't do it right, you're gonna lose small town businesses, and we're the ones supporting the community, the schools, the organizations and stuff of that nature,” he added.

Reazin said he needs public input to answer the question of what businesses should have the opportunity to come to Eudora. 

“If a business wants to invest their money to come to Eudora, should I limit that business or should I let natural economic development kind of take over?” Reazin said. “If there are two car washes in town and one offers, you know, whatever that people like, and the other one doesn't, what should I do? I mean, how should the government help with that?”

Questions related to what is going to be hosted inside the sports arena have crossed the mind of Jannell Lorenz, president of the Chamber of Commerce. She said the potential for MMA events is an interesting choice of proposed events for the arena. 

“I think that something that would be better suited for Eudora would be looking at the potential of pickleball tournaments with retirees who have disposable income that could come spend those dollars here in Eudora,” Lorenz said. “I guess I want to make sure that we're attracting the right crowd and that everything that we are offering is family oriented. Because I think that's a big value for Eudora, is things that are family friendly.”

Next month, Lorenz will pass her presidential position to Anthony Brown, owner of the local branch of Farm Bureau Financial Services. Lorenz said she is stepping down so she has more time to spend with her family, but she will still play a role as past president of the Chamber.

Brown served in the Kansas Legislature as a state representative from 2004 to 2010. During his first year, he helped rewrite some of the original STAR bond legislation, which was first authorized in 1993. STAR bonds allow local governments to use future sales tax revenue for development or redevelopment projects.

Brown said in his personal opinion, STAR bonds should be used for something unique to the state. 

“Are there sports arenas in Kansas? Yes, there is. Are there ballparks in the state of Kansas? There are. Are there hotels in the state of Kansas? There is,” he said. “I’m not for sure how this qualifies as being something unique to the state of Kansas.”

Brown pointed out another sports arena in Overland Park broke ground this month. The Bluehawk Sports Facility has authorization to use upwards of $46.5 million in STAR bonds to fund the first phase of the project. 

Brown said he supports “sustainable, smart” growth that could bring jobs to Eudora but wants to make sure the taxpayer dollar is adequately being used to support city infrastructure like new curbs and sidewalks. 

Reazin said this idea is something that has been on the forefront since his start in city government. 

“My wife pulled out my postcard that I had sent when I first ran for city commission, or city council then, and it said my request was just for positive and purposeful growth. And not just growth, just throw it on the wall and see if it sticks,” he said. “But the idea that we grow something that is beneficial to us and then it gives back to the community in whatever way we can.”

Brown said he and several other property and business owners will meet with Reazin Friday morning. He said they intend to discuss the direction taxpayer dollars are being used in relation to existing businesses. 

Reazin will also be at City Hall from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Friday to answer questions from the public regarding the city’s upcoming projects and said he can stay until noon if there are more questions than can fit into an hour..

The recent resignation of City Manager Barack Matite also has left some wondering when a new city manager will be selected and how smoothly the transfer of power process will be since Matite played a large role in the sports area plan. 

“My assumption is that he's been the spearhead of this project, and he probably understands it better than anyone else. But he's not going to be here when this happens,” Weld said. “And so does the commission really understand it? And can they explain it to us because we're all going to be here when this either happens or doesn't happen.”

CEO and President of Kaw Valley State Bank Jason Hoover said he thinks the city will need a new manager with prior experience.

“With so many new ventures that the city has stepped into or started, obviously you're going to need someone seasoned that's either A.) been through this or has went through this before,” he said. “Because there's a lot of unanswered questions with what's going to happen in the future not only for the city, but with Panasonic and everything else.” 

Hoover said he hopes the growth positively affects local businesses although he does not anticipate much change within the bank.

Forge Martial Arts owner Tonya Bolte said she isn’t familiar with details of the sports arena plan but would like to be in the future.

“There's a lot of growth coming. And just being a step ahead of everybody so that we don't drown when that growth happens is going to be super important,” Bolte said. 

Reach reporter Hannah Nystrom at eudoratimes@gmail.com 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.