Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
Electric utility board members may up their investment in the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation (SWJCEDC) next year.
Tom Reiderer, president of the SWJCEDC, asked Gardner Energy to consider upping their membership level in the group, which helps new development in New Century AirCenter, Gardner and Edgerton.
Reiderer suggested that the board increase its investment from $600 per year to $1,250 per year and offer a $1,000 grant to SWJCEDC that would be used to create a marketing fund for the development corporation.
In a letter to the board, Reiderer said next year will be a pivotal year for southwest Johnson County.
“We have spent money over the last two years to build up our identity in the development community in the region and beyond,” Reiderer said. “To do that, we have used reserves. I would ask that you consider a marketing grant of $1,000 to help us continue this important part of what we do.”
He suggested the board could instead become a Platinum level sponsor of SWJCEDC with $2,500 investment.
Board member Ryan Beasley asked if there was a way to determine how the board benefited from last year’s $600 expenditure.
“I think that would be hard to quantify,” Bill Krawvzyk, Gardner Energy director, told the board during a Nov. 19 work session.
Last year, Reiderer said SWJCEDC was represented at several trade shows and continued to increase prospects for potential industrial and commercial developers in the area. He said SWJCEDC assisted in four small, completed development projects as well.
Board member Lance Boyd said he’d like to make sure that the city of Gardner and Gardner Energy are working together in the process of bringing in new development. Last year, the city invested $25,000 with the SWJCEDC. Council members have not yet determined what they’ll contribute next year.
“I don’t want to overshadow the city,” Boyd said.
Economic development was a theme throughout the work session. Electric utility board members also briefly discussed a proposal that would create an electric rate incentive for new developments.  Board members have discussed an economic development rider that would offer rate incentives to new industrial and commercial users that use at least 100 kilowatt hours within two years.
As an example, Krawczyk said the currently empty buildings that once housed Bob and Dees Restaurant and Whiskey Creek restaurants would probably meet the usage requirement. Under the rider, a new business in either of those locations might qualify for reduced electric rates for up to three years. Larger utility users could qualify for five years of rate incentives.
The board began considering an economic development incentive based on a request from the SWJCEDC.
Krawczyk said Paul Licausi, the developer of Midwest Commerce Center, where the Coleman Warehouse is located, asked about electric utility rate incentives as a potential developer was considering building at the commerce center.
A rate comparison study between Olathe, which uses KCP&L for its electric, and Gardner Energy showed that Gardner rates were approximately  5 percent lower. However, KCP&L offered an economic development electric utility rider that made its rates more competitive.
“Our goal is trying to promote Gardner however we can,” Beasley said.
The board is scheduled to vote on its SWJCEDC membership investment and an economic development incentive policy at the next electric utility board meeting. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 at city hall.