Hank Booth, 1991-92 chair of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, says he's pleased with the chamber's accomplishments and the economic vitality of Lawrence in the last year, despite a nationwide recession.
"I believe we're all lucky to be here in Lawrence," Booth said. "By and large, we've remained extremely healthy, especially compared to the state of Kansas and other communities throughout the nation."
Booth, 45, is general manager of KLWN-KLZR radio station, 3035 Iowa.
Booth's voice is familiar in and around Lawrence. He's long been heard calling the plays for Lawrence High School football games and reporting election results from the Douglas County courthouse. But in the past year he's also become a familiar figure through chamber-related functions as chamber chair.
IN THAT capacity, he figures he's spent up to 20 hours a week attending meetings with chamber members and potential business prospects for the city.
"I haven't joined anything else," Booth quipped, saying that he's been busy in the last year. "When you're in the chairman's position, you've got to be able to drop everything in a moment's notice."
Reflecting on the past 12 months, Booth says he's pleased with the progress of some of the goals he set when he took on the postition last year.
Those goals included reducing racial tension in the city, keeping the chamber membership strong and creating jobs in Lawrence.
He also points to the work of several chamber task forces that have, or soon will, release reports.
"We're just really poised to have a lot of really good things happen in this community," he said.
The chamber task forces include the Downtown Task Force, which recently released its report on downtown development; the Visit 2020 Task Force, which released its report on ways to increase tourism; and the Kansas University Resources Task Force, which is examining how Lawrence can promote more jobs as an outgrowth of research at KU.
Booth said that although everyone may not agree with the task force recommendations that have been released so far such as those from the Downtown Task Force he said it was important that the ideas are open for public discussion.
"THE DOWNTOWN Task Force did an excellent job of drawing on key factors that we can point to in our development," he said. "Not every point is popular with every group, but now everyone's talking about it," he said.
Booth said that despite a national year of recession, Lawrence's economy has remained healthy.
"There's been some real positive growth in this community in a year when it hasn't been that favorable for the rest of the state," he said. "I think it's because of the atmosphere and the attitude here is one of cooperation. It's just a good place to grow and build," Booth said.
"I THINK there's a certain amount of insulation because of the university, but there's also insulation because this is just a good area to do business," he said. "The buy greater Lawrence outlook is important. I hope we can continue to convince people that it is good business to do business with your neighbor."
Booth pointed to Pittman-Moore Inc., an international animal health and nutrition company that is moving into the East Hills Business Park, and the opening of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America's new building in West Lawrence, as two major pluses for Lawrence during the last year.
Booth also said the possible establishment of a Boeing Co. wind tunnel testing complex in the city was important, even though the company has announced that the complex would not be built.
"I can be excited about that project, which we didn't get, because when you consider that Boeing looked at 150 communities, I think it says a lot when Lawrence makes it as one of the five finalists for a possible site," he said. "I think that shows how attractive this city is for business opportunities."
Booth also said $3.3 million in federal funding allocated for the South Lawrence Trafficway was significant.
"OF COURSE, we'd always like to have more, but we're happy that we could get some of those (federal highway) funds," he said.
Booth said he's pleased because membership in the chamber has increased during the last year.
"And that came in a year when many chambers of commerce are losing members," he noted.
The chamber's membership rose about 5 percent under Booth's chairmanship, said Cathy Lewis, membership development representative. Membership also rose about 5 percent the previous year, she said.
Booth said the issue of discrimination, one of the areas he wanted to address as chairman, needs continued attention.
"Obviously, we haven't eliminated racism and discrimination," he said.
"I would hope that public awareness has increased somewhat in the last year and that people are talking about it more."
Booth said that as chairman he was able to work well with members and business prospects because of the "outstanding" chamber staff.
"I have a strong belief in our staff," he said. "I'm more convinced than ever we have an extremely dedicated staff from top to bottom. It's one of the better ones around, and that includes the Convention and Visitor's Bureau."
Asked what advice he would give to the chamber's new chairman, local architect David Evans, Booth said, "Expect the unexpected."
"Be prepared to give about twice as much time as you thought you would, and have fun."