To the editor:
Your Feb. 27 editorial says the Progressive Lawrence Campaign is proposing a 180-degree turn against economic development and that the voters don't want it. Not so on both accounts. What the voters want are economic development strategies that work.
Lawrence's existing economic development program emphasizes an old-fashioned, "first wave" effort to entice outside firms by means of unregulated tax abatements. Published studies of economic development reject this approach as self-defeating. Abatements given to firms that would come to Lawrence without them are simply wasted. Any firms actually attracted by abatements make toothless promises and then leave once the abatements run out.
Progressive candidates' proposals include textbook examples of "second wave" economic development strategies for supporting growth from within, such as providing low-cost startup facilities and partnering seasoned business people with young businesses. They also include controls to make sure tax abatements are not wasted. Lawrence has already started to focus on cultural/outdoor/heritage tourism, but we can do much more.
Progressive candidates also propose "third wave" strategies for improving Lawrence as a place to work and do business: e.g., providing vocational-technical education and preserving the character of downtown Lawrence by focusing on small, unique businesses.
It is time for alternative leadership that understands the proven methods of economic development.