Regional Activity

Great Plains

Total nonagricultural employment in the Great Plains region increased 0.8 percent for the 12 months ending in June 2001. An average of 6.5 million people were employed in nonagricultural jobs during this period. The average unemployment rate for the 12 months ending in June 2001 was 3.4 percent. Iowa, with an average unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, had the lowest rate.

During the first 6 months of 2001, residential building permits were issued for 29,751 units in the Great Plains region, a 4.9-percent decline compared with the first half of 2000. Single-family activity during this period totaled 21,731 homes, a 4-percent drop from the first 6 months of 2000. Multifamily building permit activity fell 7 percent in the region. However, in the Kansas City metropolitan area, permits were issued for 3,280 multifamily units in the first 6 months of the year, nearly twice the volume of the first half of 2000.

The annual rate of existing home sales in the Great Plains totaled 298,500 homes, up 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2001 compared with the first quarter of 2000, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS ® . In metropolitan areas, the median sales price of an existing home ranged from $76,800 in the Topeka, Kansas, area to $130,400 in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Spotlight on Topeka, Kansas

Topeka is the third largest city in Kansas and the State’s capital. The metropolitan area had a population of 169,871 persons as of the 2000 census, a 6-percent increase from 1990.

The average nonagricultural wage and salary employment for the first 6 months of 2001 was 103,700 persons, a 0.5-percent increase over employment during the first half of 2000. The Topeka area unemployment rate for June 2001 was 3.4 percent, down from 3.7 percent in June 2000. Employment in the area was at 90,402 persons as of June 2001, the largest number employed since July 1989. Construction, trade, and finance/insurance/real estate (FIRE) experienced small increases in employment while the other categories showed modest declines.

There are three important activities under way in Topeka: the Oakland Interchange, the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, and downtown redevelopment. The Oakland Interchange should open a large tract of land for development on the east side of Topeka. The $100 million project connects the Oakland Expressway to the north with the Interstate 70/Interstate 335 turnpike interchange. This project is expected to be completed by the end of 2001. The Downtown Redevelopment Plan is an ambitious 10- to 15-year program to make the downtown more pedestrian friendly. The plan calls for Topeka to celebrate being the State’s capital, to emphasize its history, and to examine its cultural heritage. To kick off this program, the Topeka City Council has provided $350,000 to Downtown Topeka, Inc., to ensure development of three new dining, entertainment, or retail establishments. The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site development will commemorate the landmark Supreme Court decision of 1954, which ended segregation in public schools. A museum, along with exhibits, will be housed in the former Monroe Elementary School, one of the two schools named in the historic case. Once completed, an estimated 100,000 people per year are expected to visit.

As of the 2000 census, there were 68,920 households in the Topeka metropolitan area. Of those, 46,483 (67.4 percent) were owner occupied. From 1990 through 1999, an average of 735 residential building permits were issued in the Topeka area annually. Single-family activity accounts for 75 percent of the construction. In 2000, permits were issued for only 591 housing units. During the first 6 months of 2001, permits were issued for 339 units compared with 349 units in the first half of 2000.

According to Jerry Wittman, president and CEO of the Topeka Home Builders Association, the new home market is doing well. Homes priced at $170,000 are typical. Homes in the $220,000 to $225,000 range are not in demand as much as homes in the $300,000 or higher range.

Connie Goodman, CEO of the Topeka Board of REALTORS® , reports that existing home sales have held steady since the market suffered a slump in 1995 for both listings and sales. However, there has been a steady increase since that time. Sales for 1999 and 2000 were virtually the same, but the number of listings was 15 percent higher in 2000. From 1993 to 2000, the average sales prices in the Topeka area increased 20 percent to $92,627. During the past 3 years, homes in the $100,000 to $140,000 price range have seen the most activity.

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