Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2003

Village West key for workforce

July 10, 2003

Unified Government officials expect Wyandotte County's unemployment numbers will decrease when the Village West entertainment district matures to its full potential.

According to the latest labor information provided by the Kansas Department of Human Resources, Wyandotte County ranks near the bottom of Kansas counties for unemployment rates, with 9,674 unemployed residents, or 12 percent of the workforce.

By contrast, Leavenworth County's unemployment rate is 6.6 percent and Johnson County's, 4.2 percent. The state average is 4.8 percent, slightly below last year's 5 percent average.

The Village West entertainment district is a burgeoning 400-acre area seated at the northwest corner of Interstates 435 and 70. The area is home to the Kansas Speedway, Kansas City T-Bones minor league baseball stadium, Cabela's and the Great Wolf Lodge, among others.

The development will provide Wyandotte County with approximately 4,000 new jobs when completed.

Unified Government spokesman Don Denney said county officials are concerned about the unemployment numbers but the Village West has and will continue to provide employment opportunities for jobless county residents.

"We're obviously concerned about the high unemployment rate," Denney said. "We're always working toward getting our citizens hired.

"It's part of the puzzle, connecting Wyandotte County residents with these jobs," he added.

Those unemployment numbers should soon decrease, possibly as soon as next month when Nebraska Furniture Mart is scheduled to open its doors, the spokesman said.

"I think there are jobs available and will be more available soon," he said. "Take Cabela's for instance. They hired a majority of Wyandotte County residents and Nebraska Furniture Mart is trying to do the same thing."

According to Wyandotte County officials, more than half the employees from Cabela's and the Great Wolf Lodge reside in Wyandotte County. And Nebraska Furniture Mart has made a point of emphasis to follow suit when hiring employees, Denney said.

"We've stressed that with all (Village West tenants) and so far, all of them have been good neighbors to Wyandotte County," he said.

Other Village West developments scheduled to open this fall, which should provide much needed unemployment relief include:

  • The Legends of Village West, a 500,000 square foot shopping center.
  • Anniversary Inn, a 62-suite luxury hotel.
  • Hampton Inn, a 76-room, three-story lodge

An interesting paradox for Wyandotte County is that it nearly tops the list for highest paying jobs in Kansas. But, the county also ranks near the bottom in per capita income.

That means the majority of high paying jobs in Wyandotte County are held by out-of-county residents, officials said.

Village West can go a long way toward fixing those problems, officials contend.

Employment opportunity is just one way the Village West will improve Wyandotte County. Financially, the development has already spurred a boom in property taxes.

Before the 400-acre area was developed, the ground generated just $15,000 in property taxes in Wyandotte County. Considering just phase one of Village West -- The Kansas Speedway, Cabela's and the Great Wolf Lodge -- the development brings in more than $1 million in taxes.

When it operates at full capacity, the Unified Government expects to collect $5 million a year in property taxes from Village West, Denney said.

"It's been a win-win situation," Denney said.

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