September 25, 2023

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Economic Development

It is ironic two nearby cities, Tonganoxie and Kansas City, are engaged in discussions about the possibilities of large businesses selecting their cities as sites for major expansions of their respective companies.

In Tonganoxie, it’s about plans by Tyson to build a plant to grow and process millions of chickens for American dinner tables. News about this possibility has triggered heated debate as to whether such a facility would be good for Tonganoxie and the surrounding area, including Lawrence.

Apparently Tonganoxie has most all requirements needed by Tyson, especially a large, well-located site and good transportation facilities. It all depends on whether Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County officials give their green lights. Governor Sam Brownback already has welcomed Tyson to Kansas although a good percentage of Tonganoxie area residents are strong in their opposition.

Kansas City is competing with most every other major U.S. metropolitan city to become the second headquarters site for giant Amazon – a plant that would employ 50,000 well-paid, talented workers; a business venture that is sure to change the environment in whatever city lands this massive operation.

Kansas City leaders acknowledge that initially their town was not listed as among the possible serious top contenders but is wasn’t long before these leaders said they would compete and make a strong, solid proposal.

There are sure to be strong pro and con advocates in each city, citing facts and figures as to why Tyson or Amazon would be good or bad for their communities. Competition for new businesses and industry is intense, and few cities, if any, can remain complacent relative to growth opportunities. Nevertheless, strong speakers in most every community oppose growth for a number of reasons. They worry about the impact of a new business or industry on the environment, pollution, lifestyle, wages, housing and many other concerns.

Relative to the massive Amazon operation, some might say it would be difficult to find a site large enough to interest Amazon.


Kansas University has rights to hundreds of acres east of Lawrence at the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant adjacent to DeSoto. So does Kansas State University so there is more than sufficient land at this site that could be made available for Amazon. Consider the possibility of Kansas City, Lawrence, Kansas University, Kansas State University and Johnson County combining assets and making a strong bid for Amazon.

Such location has good transportation facilities, an abandoned rail line that used to serve the Sunflower plant, a good airport almost next door in Olathe, an international redesigned airport north of Kansas City, good universities, a good work force, a right-to-work state, and many other favorable features.

At one time the Sunflower plant employed approximately 20,000 employees working two and three shifts which indicates current and new transportation facilities could handle 50,000 employees.
What would be the impact of 50,000 employees…..good or bad?

What if Amazon did have an interest in building the huge plant miles east of Lawrence? What would local officials and citizens say…..yes or no?

Sound economic development is essential if a community or state is to grow, prosper and generate tax revenues to fund the ever-growing demands of citizens for improved and new public services. Lawrence hasn’t measured up well in recent years compared to what city officials achieved some years ago. Many developers and site analysis professionals have the “perception” of Lawrence being anti-business and the city’s bureaucracy serving itself rather than hustling for the future of Lawrence.

What are the chances five years from now Tyson and/or Amazon will have plants in operation in Tonganoxie or somewhere in the Kansas City area — preferably at the Sunflower plant site?