The recent weather may have given the season an unruly and chilly start. But the basketball postseason has put a spring in the step of many a Kansan, and there are welcome signs of renewed life across the local economy.
Congratulations and gratitude are due the Wichita State University Shockers and coach Gregg Marshall for making their community and state beam with pride in reaching the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament – the first Final Four for the school since 1965 and the first for the Missouri Valley Conference since 1979. The Shockers have had a strong, inspiring run under Marshall, including the 2011 NIT championship and a 2012 NCAA Tournament bid. No matter what happens in Atlanta, the No. 9-seeded Shockers’ upset of No. 1-seeded Gonzaga and dominance over No. 2-seeded Ohio State will be long-remembered. Long wave the yellow and the black. O, Wichita State, here’s to you.
After sharing the Big 12 title, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University had disappointing NCAA tournaments. K-State lost its first game, and KU let a Sweet 16 win slip away. But both teams exceeded the preseason predictions of many.
Meanwhile, the KU women under coach Bonnie Henrickson continue their unexpected 2013 tournament run, having reached the Sweet 16 to face Notre Dame Sunday. And the K-State women advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT with a Saturday win over Illinois.
It’s been a great basketball season and postseason to be a Wichitan and a Kansan.
But other recent events and reports also have been heartening after such a long, dreary period in the economic life of the community, state and nation. Among them:
• Thursday’s recognition of “Block One,” marking the completion of the Ambassador Hotel, the adjacent Urban Plaza and parking garage, and the ongoing construction of what promises to be the impressive Kansas Leadership Center – the first new building to go up on Douglas in 40 years.
• News that Sedgwick County businesses saw a collective revenue increase of 4.4 percent in 2012, including a 3.7 percent boost in Christmastime sales from 2011.
• A report, released last week by the Martens Co., that industrial real-estate sales in Sedgwick County saw their biggest gains in sales volume and square footage in 2012 since 2007, with deals including Straub International’s acquisition of a 54,000-square-foot building in southwest Wichita and Box 4 U’s acquisition of a 72,000-square-foot former Boeing surplus building.
• Renewed activity in home sales and home and apartment construction. The Kansas Association of Realtors reported that the state has seen 12 months straight of year-over-year increases in home sales, including February’s 3.4 percent increase.
Plus, Cessna Aircraft paused last week to celebrate the rollout of its 400th production Citation CJ3 light business jet. And the question about Spirit AeroSystems’ leadership has been answered: Larry Lawson, former executive vice president of aeronautics for Lockheed Martin, is scheduled to take over April 6 from founding CEO Jeff Turner, who is retiring.
True, the Wichita unemployment rate didn’t show progress in February, matching January’s rate of 6.5 percent and staying well above Kansas’ 5.5 percent. It was a blow that Beechcraft lost the U.S. Air Force contract for a light air support plane – a decision that the state’s congressional delegation and the company continue to fight. And the Kansas Legislature’s poor, shortsighted lawmaking on taxes, the state budget and more creates a new worry a day.
But it’s been nice to see some green shoots in the economy to go along with all the amazing shots made on the basketball court this month.