Business

Peninsula Gaming to put Kansans to work

There will be a local flavor as Peninsula Gaming ramps up its operations at the Kansas Star Casino.

The Iowa-based company says it's bringing a firm "buy local" policy to the $260 million Sumner County casino project, such as the local sub-contractors it will recruit under its "Kansas First" program to join its Iowa-based general contractor and the vendors who will supply services and supplies to the facility.

And it couldn't come at a better time for area businesses laboring under a tough economy.

"We buy local first," said Peninsula spokeswoman Carrie Tedore. "For goods and services that are available from Kansas businesses, they are our preferred vendors."

Peninsula is serious about that commitment, Tedore said — so much so that the company won't do business outside Kansas until proof is provided that the product can't be obtained locally.

"On our Iowa project, 98.8 percent of goods and services were purchased in Iowa," Tedore said.

"When we get bids on projects, we look to the locals first and within the state second. Then, if what we need remains unavailable, we ascertain the need for the service or item, and if it's necessary, the purchaser has to show us proof that it's not available in-state."

Site managers were in Wichita last week meeting with prospective sub-contractors to join the build team headed by Tim Conlon of Conlon Construction in Dubuque, the project's general contractor, Tedore said.

Conlon said he's compiling lists of possible Wichita subcontractors, with initial groundbreaking about 30 days away.

The first phase of the casino should open around the first of the year. Interested subcontractors should contact Conlon Construction for instructions at 563-583-1724, Conlon said.

Interested vendors can sign up online to provide goods and services to the casino.

Peninsula's local website, www.KansasStarCasino.com, includes a "careers and vendors" link on the top right where builders and suppliers can register as a preferred local vendor.

"When they sign up online, as a Kansas business they're going to get updates and RFP alerts, things like that," Tedore said. "We love how this worked for us in Iowa. It's a commitment to the local community and a commitment to the local economy."

And welcome news to those trying to find business in a Wichita economy hit hard by aviation layoffs.

"Any job right now is a good job," said Dave Wells, president of Key Construction.

"Absolutely we want to talk with them. We'd love to be involved with the casino in any capacity we can."

Eric Fahnestock, president of Fahnestock Plumbing, HVAC, Electric & Fireplaces, said the project is a "great opportunity in a down economy."

"Any time a big project comes on line like this in a down economy, I think it's great timing," he said. "It's a tough market, and it has been for a while.

"Commercial has been pretty slow for years — just enough work for everybody to stay busy and we've downsized our crews.... So we will, for sure, interact with them if they'll give us the opportunity. The key thing for all of us is to be careful and be good at what we do."

Bill Maness, owner of Syndeo Outsourcing, and Ray Stasieczko, co-owner of KK Office Solutions, say they welcome an all-too-rare chance to do business with a national developer.

"I will tell you that they're a very important new client for us, simply from the standpoint that I believe in how they've embraced the Wichita area from day one," said Maness, whose Wichita company handles outsourced human resources work for companies.

"For us, we really appreciate their approach to doing business here," said Stasieczko, whose company offers a full line of office furniture, IT and supplies. "It's not like we expect them to pay a whole lot more to do business with us, but at least they're giving us a shot."

It's not uncommon for national providers to undercut the locals on major projects like the casino, the two men said.

What the national vendors can't provide, though, is service and expertise after the sale.

"The national guys present a nice story, and they look inexpensive, so all too often a company will just jump on board," Stasieczko said.

"What's missing is that obviously, we can respond quicker to their needs here in Wichita and we understand the culture of the community."

"This approach becomes less and less common the bigger an organization gets," Maness said.

"The more decentralized a company becomes, the scales and ways they have of doing things don't really allow a local focus."

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