Lawrence will have to compete with Phoenix, Orlando, Fla., and Jacksonville, Fla., to keep the headquarters of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and its 120 jobs.
Steve Mona, the association's chief executive, confirmed Monday the group had narrowed its search to those three cities as it considers leaving Lawrence, which has been the group's home since 1972.
Mona said it was possible the association might decide to remain in Lawrence.
"Lawrence is absolutely still one of the finalist cities," he said. "This is not a case where we have decided to move and now the only question is where."
The 22,000-member association announced last month it was considering moving from its headquarters at 1421 Research Park Drive in west Lawrence. One of the reasons cited was a desire to be located in a more "golf-centric" area of the country.
The Orlando and Jacksonville areas are home to many of the country's golf organizations. The PGA Tour is based in Jacksonville, the PGA of America is in Palm Beach, Fla., the LPGA Tour is in Daytona Beach, Fla., the National Golf Foundation is in Jupiter, Fla., and Orlando is home to the Golf Channel and Golf Week magazine.
"A large number of the major golf organizations are in Florida," Mona said. "That begs the question of whether our goals would be more achievable if we were located there. That's what we're trying to figure out."
Mona said the association had not received proposals from any of the cities. He said the group's board decided to send a consultant to Orlando and Jacksonville to solicit proposals from those communities.
"We'll ask our consultant to meet with the public and private sector to see what incentives might be available, and to see if there are developers who are interested in working with us," Mona said.
Lawrence government and economic development officials have approached Mona to see what they can do to keep the company, which pays an average salary of nearly $43,000.
Mona said if Lawrence officials offered a proposal of new incentives, the association would consider it, but the group is not necessarily expecting one.
"This is not an exercise to extract a better deal from Lawrence," Mona said. "We're not asking Lawrence for one additional incentive or consideration. But if they would like to do that, then that's their choice."
The company currently receives a 50 percent property tax abatement, but that tax break expires at the end of the year. Mona has said even without the tax abatement Lawrence could fare well in the selection process.
"I think Lawrence still has several advantages," Mona said. "We're here, our staff is here, we own our building here. Those are all huge advantages for Lawrence."
But Mona has said the association might be interested in some amenities that could be difficult for Lawrence to offer, such as a larger complex that would include a golf course, hotel and convention center.
Mona said the association likely would begin reviewing proposals in mid-February. He said a decision on whether to move could be made as early as the summer of 2003.