It's going to be a Top Tank week for me, including a networking event Friday at Norsemen Brewing Co. and the big reveal on Saturday.
Top Tank has been fascinating from many perspectives. It's not just about the initiative of the six Topeka businessmen who put their dollars and time into stirring up interest in the downtown and supporting entrepreneurs, but seeing the buy-in from many elements of the community. The 10 finalists come from across the city, from varying industries, varying backgrounds and a pretty good age range too. Their ideas — from the ice cream parlor to drones to spas to coffee houses — have inspired conversations about what we'd really like to see downtown.
I interviewed a Kansas economic development pro last week and he talked about an almost mystical energy that roils up around community investment. In Facebook posts, on Twitter and no doubt on other social media that I always fail to follow, that energy and excitement has been evident with Top Tank. I'm looking forward to celebrating with the winner and also the nine who can't be called losers by any means. Hopefully, even without the $100,000 prize backing them, Topeka will see some of their dreams come to fruition in new downtown businesses.
I spent Thursday on the road in southeast Kansas, an area I've rarely covered and that, frankly, is a little out of our circulation. But I tracked down one good story down there that grew to three or four. I'm excited to share those with you over the next few weeks, including an invention that in my inexpert and inexperienced opinion is likely to make a big impact internationally.
Photographer Thad Allton and I more than once looked at each other on that day out of the office and said, "This. This is what we love to do." It's about meeting people who are passionate and involved and committed. It was that kind of mystical energy boost for me that keeps me going on some of the tougher-to-cover stories.
Watch this week for more coverage of the utility industry. The Legislature's utilities committee is considering a few bills that would affect rates and other matters associated with reporting requirements.
EEOC releases 2017 numbers
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its fiscal year 2017 numbers on workplace discrimination charges filed during the year. In Kansas, a total of 623 charges were filed. Breaking that down to what the discrimination charges were about, the state saw 198 in regard to race; 215, sex discrimination; 50, national origin; 29, color; and 24, religion.
The EEOC resolved 99,109 charges in fiscal year 2017 and reduced the charge workload by 16.2 percent to 61,621, the lowest level of inventory in 10 years. The agency achieved this by deploying new strategies to more efficiently prioritize charges with merit, more quickly resolve investigations and improve the agency’s digital systems. The agency handled over 540,000 calls to its toll-free number and more than 155,000 inquiries in field offices, reflecting the public demand for EEOC services.
Kansas total charges filed compared with Missouri at 2,133, Nebraska at 66 and Oklahoma at 1,228.
Gasoline futures drop
Gasoline futures fell for six straight trading sessions, pulling the market near a two-month low, according to Paragon Investments in Silver Lake.
"This break should be a welcome relief for drivers who saw prices surge over two-year highs just a few weeks ago," said commodity futures brokers Walt and Alex Breitinger in their weekly newsletter. "With the recent 25-cent drop, gasoline futures, which represent the cost of fuel without taxes or other expenses like transportation, are trading for $1.70, barely above the average price from 2017. Gasoline is being pulled lower by record U.S. oil production as new technologies, including fracking, have opened vast supplies that were once uneconomical to drill for."
AAA reports that Kansas gas prices average about $2.45 per gallon for regular gasoline. That compares to $2.28 a month ago and $2.16 a year ago.