A host of committees, task forces and special interest groups help make sure the work of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce gets done. These groups, made up of chamber members and staff members, cover a variety of topics. Here's a roundup of the chamber's numerous committees and task forces:
Douglas County Development Inc.
The Douglas County Development Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation formed to develop and market the East Hills Business Park in Lawrence. It can construct facilities for lease to new or expanding firms.
There are 24 elected positions on the board, made up of city and county representatives, business executives, representatives of financial institutions and area developers.
"The East Hills Business Park is a partnership between the city, the county and the chamber," said staff liaison Debi Moore.
The county bought the land, the city put in infrastructure, and the chamber markets the park through the corporation. The business park currently features a total of seven firms that employ more than 1,200 people.
Economic Development Update Luncheons
This group helps organize four luncheons a year which feature updates on economic development activities and prospective employers considering Lawrence and Douglas County.
"We try on a quarterly basis to have some kind of event, a breakfast or a luncheon, that might be of interest to our members," said Moore, the staff contact for the group.
A total of 150 members attended meetings last year.
The group's chair is Mike Scott of Southwestern Bell.
Envoys help chamber members celebrate ribbon-cuttings and ground-breakings for new, relocated or expanding businesses. This committee also conducts new-member receptions.
Envoys has averaged 55 to 60 ribbon-cuttings and ground-breakings a year, staff contact Betty Markley said.
"This group is very supportive of the business community by helping each business promote itself in the community," Markley said.
The chair of the committee is Becky Mason, Landplan Engineering.
Fall Mixer Committee
The Fall Mixer Committee plans the annual Fall Mixer, which is held each September to salute schools in Douglas County and to celebrate the start of a new school year.
It is a chance for new educators to meet and socialize with community members. The event, which is held on the grounds of Meadowbrook Apartments, 15th and Crestline, highlights the benefits of the local Business-Education Partnership.
The annual event includes the "A Taste of Lawrence," featuring area restaurants, caterers and specialty shops that serve up their top fare.
It annually draws more than 1,400 people.
The staff contact is Cathy Lewis; the chair is Larry Foland.
Government Communications Committee
The Government Communications Committee coordinates the local business community's efforts to ensure members' interests are protected. It also develops and lobbies for a legislative agenda each year. During election years, the committee hosts candidate events.
The committee polls chamber members to form an opinion on public policy. It also provides opportunities for members to interact with elected officials on the local, state and national level.
The committee's staff contact is Kathy Bechtel.
Lawrence Business-Education Partnership
This program is for businesses that would like to create a partnership with one or more of the 25 local schools. More than 100 partnerships exist.
"We had 1,800 volunteers in the schools last year," said Linda Robinson, the partnership director. They donated almost 20,000 hours.
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"It's been wildly successful," Robinson said.
As part of the partnership, an agency or business will provide in-kind contributions, volunteers, funding or recognition programs for a school, a class or a curriculum area.
The partnership has a board made up of 30 people; 15 educators and 15 business representatives.
Along with individual partnerships, the organization has sponsored communitywide programs supporting parent-friendly workplaces, preparing children for school and looking at school-to-career curriculums.
Leadership Lawrence is an eight-month leadership development program.
It meets once a month for a day session on a wide variety of topics.
The leadership program has graduated more than 250 community members since 1982.
Classes cover education and youth, history, recreation and communication, and government.
The next class session begins in October.
The staff contact for the program is Kathy Bechtel; the group chair is Larry McElwain.
Professional Women of the Chamber Steering Committee
The Professional Women of the Chamber is a group that provides support, education and recognition for businesswomen of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
The group will be three years old this summer; it has more than 500 members. It holds monthly meetings.
The chair of the committee is Pam Sibert, Baker University; the staff contact is Betty Markley.
This council is a group of retired members of the chamber that is implementing a project to place commemorative plaques on historic buildings in the community.
The staff contact is June Morton; the council chair is Bob Wells.
Sound Advice for Small Business
The Sound Advice for Small Business task force sponsors seminars and programs for chamber members who operate small businesses.
Its programs include Member-to-Member, Small Business Week and management seminars.
"It serves three roles," staff contact Caryn Anderson said.
It welcomes new members with a personal visit from an existing chamber member. It also puts on seminars geared toward small business. The task force also recognizes a small-business owner each month for their work.
This group also helped start the Speakers' Bureau.
The staff contact for the task force is Caryn Anderson.
Speakers' Bureau Steering Committee
The Speakers' Bureau makes speakers available to schools, clubs and organizations. The bureau has a list of more than 65 chamber members that volunteer to speak on a variety of topics.
"You name it," said Caryn Anderson, the staff contact. "They'll come to your business, your school or your civic organization and speak. The topics are so varied. ... We can talk on everything from fine arts and aviation and Lawrence history to leadership and managing diversity."
The bureau kicked off in January, and has received at least two dozen requests for speakers.
Sunflower State Games
The games committee does what it can to support the Sunflower State Games, and keep them in Lawrence.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau started the games 10 years ago. Since then, the program became its own entity with a state board, staff contact Dusty Workman said. The group wants to make sure the games stay here.
"We really support the state games while they're here, because we want to keep them here," he said.
Group members promote the games, "fill in gaps where they need it," and act as a liaison with city for the games.
"We're just there to continue to support them," Workman said.
The contact person for the group is Kelly Mason, the Sunflower State Games director.
Workforce Development Committee
This committee provides a forum to discuss problems and opportunities associated with labor availability and work force preparation. There are four major areas on which the committee focuses its efforts: School to Careers, Lawrence NationJob Network, Employment Marketplace/Job Fair, and One-stop Employment Resource Center.
The NationJob Network is the chamber's on-line recruiting program. It was developed in early 1998. It is available to chamber members, who may list all of their job openings and a two-page company description on the site. Its goal is to create a comprehensive list of employment opportunities in the area.
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It can be accessed at www.nationjob.com/lawrence. For information about the network and job fairs, call staff contact Gretchen Gwaltney.
The new initiative for one-stop resource centers would put representatives of different agencies and companies all in one spot for job seekers.
"So if someone is looking for employment, they can go to one location," Debi Moore said. "So they're not going from facility to facility all over town."
For additional information about School to Careers, contact chamber president Gary Toebben; for information about the resource center, get in touch with Moore.
This new committee's mission is to enhance public awareness of the Chamber of Commerce and to increase membership retention through increased person contact and member support.
Members associated with the club, according to staff contact Cathy Lewis, will visit with other members about chamber programs and services. They will seek input about business issues, concerns and priorities. In addition, club members will extend personal invitations to chamber functions.
Educational Seminar Series
Two seminar series will be offered to chamber members in the next year.
The topics covered will include workforce and labor development, and technology and e-commerce.
The staff contact is Debi Moore.
Festival of Poinsettias
This popular annual festival promotion is designed to tie all of Lawrence's December holiday activities together in order to generate more visitor interest.
The staff contact is Sue Hillman.
Small Business Development Center
The center provides professional management assistance, training, business information and resource referrals to both existing and potential business owners.
The contact for the center is Randee Brady.
Wakarusa Valley Development
This non-profit development corporation provides financing for small-business expansion, as well as long-term fixed asset and working capital financing.
The contact is Mike O'Donnell.
Kansas International sponsors monthly breakfast seminars on the intricacies of doing business in other countries. Tom Thompson is the executive director.