Ty Lasher has become one of the biggest developers in the Wichita area by necessity.
As city manager of Bel Aire, Lasher has for the past seven years led the effort to develop more than 2,000 acres that were purchased by previous city leaders in 2003.
Over the past decade, the city has been able to sell about 400 acres, including for the new Northeast Magnet High School, but is still weighed down by debt payments. However, recent efforts promise to accelerate that growth, Lasher said. The city will hold a groundbreaking Friday for the Next Level Hoops Academy.
It’s not what he expected when he got into public administration, Lasher said, but he’s certainly learned a lot.
He is married to Denise and they have a son and daughter. They live in Bel Aire.
Q. 1 How difficult has it been to develop the land?
A. Really, it hasn’t been that difficult. The key to our success has been creating a good team. We’ve owned this land for 10 years. There was a vision when it was bought to create an industrial park, but that’s all it was. As time went on, the council realized this just isn’t working and decided to pay for a real master plan. … Then we brought in (John T. Arnold Associates president) Marlin Penner, who had experience with industrial development, to do the marketing … and we’ve had a lot of turnover on the council. But once we got the right team on board and started marketing it, that part has been very easy.
Q. 2 Is city-led development a good idea?
A. I would say no, because from my experience as a city manager who has a master’s in public administration, what we are doing is not something that 99 percent of cities do. You’re looking at staff that knows how to run a city, not develop land. There are times when the public sector has to do it, because the private sector won’t or the developer goes bankrupt. But we don’t have the expertise.
Q. 3 When will the purchase of that 2,000 acres become a good thing for Bel Aire?
A. I think once the majority of it develops, with houses and commercial and industrial development, then it will be a good thing. … We’re maybe 25 percent there.
Q. 4 Does it whet your appetite for a career change?
A. (Laughs.) I have no desire to change careers. There is so much more to development and marketing that I don’t know. I see that every day.
Q. 5 What keeps you up at night?
A. A lot of what we do is market and sell land because we own so much, but none of us should forget about the 7,000 citizens that call Bel Aire home, and I want to make sure we provide good service to them. Yes, we need to pay down our debt, but people live here for a reason.