It's back to the drawing board for Richard LaMunyon.
The Maize city administrator and the City Council are developing a quick-strike economic development plan after Tindall Corp. picked Newton over Maize last month for its wind turbine base plant.
That kind of competitive economic development climate is just one of the challenges Wichita's suburban communities face as they struggle to maintain growth in an economic downturn.
Some continue to prosper, like Derby, where retailers continue to chase part of a rapidly growing city demographic.
Others are looking for answers after economic development projects go bad, like the business and entertainment park failures in Park City.
"We recognize that we're in a strong competition, so now what we have to do is come up with a package that will be attractive to the opportunities that present itself," said LaMunyon.
He likens Maize's review to the "after action" reports he compiled as Wichita's police chief from 1976 to 1988.
"You look at the good points. What did we do right?" he said. "And, what if this was done better? What can we learn from how we handled Tindall and how can we improve it?"
Round one to Newton
Newton and Harvey County officials landed Tindall's estimated 405 jobs with huge bait — 100 free acres of land.
The ground is part of some land banking the Newton City Commission embarked on last year — about 560 acres that the city can snatch quickly and turn over to major industrial prospects near the city's industrial park at Southeast Ninth and Spencer.
"The pace that some of these businesses move doesn't give you the luxury of taking a year to go out and acquire some property," said Newton City Manager Randy Riggs.
Governmental land banking isn't unusual, but it's controversial, said former interim Wichita City Manager Ed Flentje, who teaches at Wichita State University's Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs.
"You as a government essentially go into the real estate business," Flentje said. "The city of Bel Aire's (residential land purchase) is an extreme example of overreaching."
Still, the Newton land bank is opening industrial recruitment doors, said Mickey Fornaro-Dean, executive director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council.
"When you look at the land businesses need, the access to roads, they need rail and (when you) put the dual modalities together, we don't just have one asset in Harvey County. We've combined all of ours to create a package that's truly made a difference," she said.
Newton's success has Maize's attention, where a similar land banking plan is in the works.
"We have an excellent location of industrial development, so one of the things we're doing is firming up options with property owners in the northwest part of Maize, near 53rd and 119th near 96," LaMunyon said.
"We have the railroad tracks there, the K-96 corridor, four-lane roads, hard-surface roads and a concept in our mind of how we want to go forward."
Newton represents competition, but LaMunyon admitted that Tindall will be good for the region's economy.
"Give the REAP (Regional Economic Area Partnership) organization some credit," he said.
"They came together 11 or so years ago with a good bit of skepticism, but I think there's a lot of trust between the 37 jurisdictions who are members of REAP, so when Hutchinson secures Siemens, for example, I think everyone cheers."
Residential recruitment is a key project for many suburban cities — how to build relationships with developers to build homes and how to get them sold.
"We saw Maize have some success with that and a little light bulb went on," said Garden Plain mayor Tony Flax, a stockbroker.
So Flax and his council authorized a plan giving between $3,000 and $6,000 in utility bill credits to new-home buyers.
It's similar to a plan Park City has used, said administrator Jack Whitson.
"At the end of the year, we were flat with the home sales of the previous year, and flat is good. Really good," Whitson said.
City-funded residential infrastructure has proven a drain on suburban budgets, officials said. If homes don't sell, developers get the tab for unpaid special assessments. And if the developers don't pay...
In Park City, the budget absorbed a $200,000 hit last year for unpaid special assessments for sewer, water and roads, Whitson said.
"I'll admit up front that some specials in my town aren't getting paid," Flax said. "It's a tremendous stress on our budget, but we offer bonds for projects like this because we need to build our tax base. It's a risk you must take."
Such municipal bonds remain popular for individual investors, Flentje said.
But Park City bonds are becoming harder to move in the tight economy, Whitson said.
It's difficult to insure the city's bonds, Whitson said, with only one insurer left in the market. And they're almost impossible to sell at a public sale, where bids are accepted.
"We've had to go to a private sale where they readily sold within a day," Whitson said. "We're fine, but you don't get the interest rates you want."
Then there's the shortage of available commercial credit — hitting even Derby, where business growth has continued despite the recession.
"In talking to successful small businesses, people who are in business seeking to grow, they're just having a hard time getting money," Derby City Manager Kathy Sexton said.
"What we see is more interest in leases, much more so than building, because developers just don't want to speculatively build."
That makes the recession a good time to retool the game plan, LaMunyon said. Maize is still working actively with a couple of hotels, a restaurant and a dental clinic — all on hold in a tight credit market.
"We're still pretty optimistic," he said. "It basically comes back to reputable people and credit that's very difficult to obtain, as you've been told."