A host of volunteer committees and task forces 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. There are also several areas of special interest that provide additional opportunities for chamber members to be involved with chamber activities. Here's a roundup of the chamber's numerous committees, task forces and areas of interest:
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS
Member-Buy-Member Business Showcase
This event provides the opportunity for Chamber members to promote their products and services to each other in a trade-show style member mixer. Booths, food, games and prizes are all included. Staff contact is Cathy Lewis.
GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS
Government Communications Committee
The Government Communications Committee coordinates the local business community's efforts to ensure members' interests are protected and keep them informed on issues that affect them. The committee polls chamber members to form an opinion on public policy in order to develop a legislative priority agenda each year. It also provides opportunities for members to interact with elected officials on the local, state and national level. The committee's chair is Dave Topp of Topp Data Corporation and the staff contact is Kathy Bechtel. Some of the events sponsored by the committee include:
- Eggs & Issues Breakfasts
The Government Communications Committee hosts a series of breakfast meetings with local legislators during the legislative session to update members and the public on the issues being debated by the Kansas Legislature.
- Local, State & Federal Affairs Forums
Candidates running for Local, State and Federal offices as well as elected officials are invited to speak to the membership regarding their views on current issues and provide updates on local issues and those of the state and federal legislatures.
- Talk of the Town Tuesdays
This series of events for members feature topics of current local interest, presented by experts, in an informal luncheon setting. The first event was held in April featuring a presentation by the Kansas Speedway Corporation.
LEADERSHIP AND EDUCATION
"Business Talks" Speakers' Bureau
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, such as fine arts, aviation, Lawrence history or managing diversity. Chairman Russ Hilton and chamber staff member Kristy Griffin coordinate the bureau.
Lawrence Business-Education Partnership
This program is for businesses that want to create a partnership with one or more of the 25 local schools. More than 100 partnerships already exist. As part of the partnership, businesses provide volunteer time or hold recognition programs for a school, class or curriculum area, and some give in-kind contributions or funding. The partnership has a board made up of 28 educators and business representatives. Along with individual partnerships, the organization has sponsored community wide programs supporting parent-friendly workplaces, preparing children for school and looking at school-to-career curriculums. Staff member Nancy Quellhorst coordinates the program.
Leadership Lawrence is an eight-month leadership development program. It meets once a month for a day session on a wide variety of topics, including education and youth, history, recreation and communication, and government.
The leadership program has graduated more than 300 community members since its creation by the chamber in 1982. The chair of Leadership Lawrence for 2000-2001 is Ann Gardner of the Lawrence Journal-World. Nancy Longhurst is the executive director.
Douglas County Development Inc.
The Douglas County Development Inc. is a nonprofit 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, who serves as the director of economic development.
The county bought the land, the city put in infrastructure and the chamber markets the park through the corporation.
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.
NETWORKING AND MEMBERSHIP SERVICES
Chamber Membership Campaigns
Volunteers recruit new members to the Chamber by participating in membership campaigns. These campaigns are fun-filled with great team and individual prizes. Staff contact is Cathy Lewis.
Envoys help chamber members celebrate ribbon-cuttings and ground-breakings for new, relocated or expanding businesses. This committee also conducts new-member receptions. "We average 55 to 60 ribbon-cuttings and ground-breakings a year," staff contact Betty Markley said. "The Envoy 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 Von Edman of Prudential Insurance."
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 Street and Crestline Drive, highlights the benefits of the local Business-Education Partnership.
With 1,400 people in attendance, the Fall Mixer is the largest chamber event of the year. The annual event includes the "A Taste of Lawrence," featuring area restaurants, caterers and specialty shops that serve up their top fare. The staff contact is Cathy Lewis; the 2000 chair is Melissa Hatfield of Baker University.
Professional Women of the Chamber
The Professional Women of the Chamber program provides networking, education and recognition opportunities and events for businesswomen of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The program is in its fourth year and has more than 500 members. Monthly meetings are planned by a steering committee which is chaired by Brenda Krones of Waddell & Reed. The staff contact is Betty Markley.
This group of retired members has a variety of projects, one of which has been to place commemorative plaques on historic buildings in the community. Their meetings also provide the opportunity to network monthly. The staff contact is Heather Bunker; the council chair is Buck Newsom.
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 Ashley Arnold with the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Sunflower State Games
Hundreds of volunteers help run this sporting event, held annually in July, that attracts more than 10,000 athletes from across Kansas. The Convention & Visitors Bureau started the games 11 years ago, and since then, the program has become its own entity with a state board. Local group members promote the games and act as a liaison with city for the games.
Employment Marketplace Job Fair
This annual spring event provides the opportunity for area businesses to meet with potential employees, sharing information about career opportunities and sometimes conducting on-the-spot interviews with qualified candidates. Job seekers can learn more about each company and receive resume assistance from human resource experts. Staff contact is Kate Michaelis, who works closely with a planning committee to organize the event.
KU Internship Programs
The Chamber works with various departments at Kansas University to share information about internship programs with chamber member businesses. Members interested in offering internships at their place of business may request a brochure containing contact information for KU student internship resources from Betty Markley, staff contact.
One-Stop Employment Resource Center
The new initiative for one-stop resource centers would put representatives of different agencies and companies all in one spot for job seekers.