Commerce Department helps add jobs

Views West
by Murrel Bland
The number of Kansans working today, about 1.4 million, is about the same number as those working before the “Great Recession” hit in 2007. That was the message that Dan Lara brought to the Congressional Forum at its monthly luncheon meeting at the Reardon Convention Center.
Lara, who handles public affairs for the Kansas Department of Commerce, was the featured speaker at the meeting. He was substituting for his boss, Pat George, who is Secretary of Commerce. George was attending to family business.
Lara is a former press secretary for Sam Brownback when he was U.S. senator. Brownback is now governor seeking his second term.
Lara told of various success stories of companies that the Department of Commerce has helped including two in Lenexa. They are Quest Diagnostics which will employ 500 persons and Grantham University that will employ 400.
The employment rate in Kansas in May was 4.8 percent compared to 6.1 percent this time last year, according to the Kansas Department of Labor. The unemployment rate in Wyandotte County for May was 7.8 percent.
The Commerce Department has launched the “KanVet” program that is an aggressive effort to employee military veterans. It asks private and public sector employers to take a pledge to help hire veterans; those who have taken the pledge include Country Club Bank, Kansas City Power and Light and Rental City. After businesses take the pledge, staff members from the Commerce Department work with businesses to link qualified veterans with job openings.
Lara also told of the Rural Opportunity Zone program offered in 73 Kansas counties. Such counties are authorized to provide a state income tax waiver for up to five years or to pay student loans up to $15,000 or both. To be eligible for the program, a person must establish residency in one of the 73 counties after July 1, 2011, live outside Kansas for five years previous and have earned less than $10,000 in each of the five years before coming to Kansas.
Lara said the program was successful in attracting engineering graduates, among other professionals.
Bob Kimball, a member of the Congressional Forum whose family was a longtime business owner in the Fairfax industrial area, questioned whether the program was fair to engineering students who were Kansas residents and graduates of the University of Kansas or Kansas State University; they would not be eligible.
I asked Lara if there was any possibility for an urban opportunity zone in Wyandotte County. I explained that Wyandotte County faces the same problem as many rural counties with the loss of population. Lara said such an urban program might be considered.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

KCKCC to hold five summer sports camps

by Kelly Rogge

Kansas City Kansas Community College is holding five upcoming summer sports camps for children of all ages.

• Boys’ Basketball Camp. The camp is for children entering first through eighth grades. Session one is from 9 a.m. to noon and is for first through fourth grade students. Session two is from 1 to 4 p.m. and is for fifth through eighth graders. Both sessions are July 8 to 10 at the KCKCC Field House, 7250 State Ave. The fee is $50.

• Girls and Boys Beginners All Skills Basketball Camp. This camp, which is for boys and girls pre-kindergarten to third grade, is from 9 to 11 a.m. July 14-17 at the KCKCC Fieldhouse. The goal is to teach children the basic skills of basketball such as passing, dribbling and shooting. The fee is $40.

• Girls Intermediate All Skills Basketball Camp. This camp, designed for girls in fourth through 10th grades, is 1 to 4 p.m. July 14-17 at the KCKCC Fieldhouse. Like the beginning skills camp, girls will work to further develop their basketball skills, and also participate in a series of competitions. The fee is $60.

• Beginners-Intermediate All Skills Volleyball Camp. The camp, which is for students in third through eighth grades, is 1 to 3 p.m. July 28 to 31. Campers will learn the fundamentals of how to pass, serve, set and hit. Camp will also include volleyball games and other team activities. The fee is $80.

• Advanced All Skills Volleyball Camp. This camp is for ninth through 12th graders and will help players learn elite level skills to help in both high school and collegiate volleyball. It is from 9 a.m. to noon July 28-31 in the KCKCC Fieldhouse. The fee is $120.

The gym will open one half hour prior to the start of each camp session and be open one half hour after camp to allow for drop-off and pick-up.

While pre-registration is not required, it is preferred to ensure a spot in one of the camps. Prior to participation, parents and guardians must complete a registration form and a medical release form as well as pay the camp fee. Participants are responsible for providing their own shoes, practice clothes, towel, and water bottle.

For more information or to register, visit the KCKCC Athletic website at Information on the basketball camps is also available by calling 913-288-7151 or by sending an email to Valerie Stambersky, assistant athletic director of communications and head women’s basketball coach at KCKCC, at

For information on the volleyball camps, contact Mary Bruno, head volleyball coach at KCKCC at or call 913-288-7499.

Talented KCK student advances in competition

A Wyandotte High School student advanced in the KC SuperStar 2014 competition.

Prince Russell Johnson, a Wyandotte student, was one of 10 students advancing in the talent contest sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. The students were chosen after singing in front of a three-judge panel.

Ten students in all were chosen June 9 from a field of 24 semifinalists and will advance to the finals of the competition on Aug. 24 at Johnson County Community College. The other students chosen were from other counties in metropolitan Kansas City.

The students are competing for a grand prize of a $10,000 scholarship that will go to the contest winner.

Rob Riggle, actor and comedian from Overland Park, will serve as the celebrity master of ceremonies for the final event. A panel of professionals in the entertainment industry will judge the singers, selecting the top four. The audience will then vote for the top singer. A limited number of tickets are available for the audience, and audience members may vote for the winner. For event and sponsorship information, call 913-327-8895.

In addition to the grand prize, there are other prizes for winners, including a $5,000 scholarship for the second-place winner, a $2,500 scholarship for the third-place winner and a $1,000 scholarship for the fourth-place winner. Other finalists receive $500 scholarships.

The KC SuperStar competition is also a benefit for the programs of the Jewish Community Center. Part of this year’s proceeds also benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Reat Underwood Memorial Fund.

The KC SuperStar competition previously was in the news, as part of the contest was scheduled on the day that three persons were killed in a parking lot at the center on Sunday, April 13.