Tax breaks, training grants, infrastructure improvements and other incentives helped convince Serologicals Corp. to consider Lawrence as a site for a new $28 million manufacturing plant.
But it was a $1,000 annual scholarship, in the company's name, to Kansas University that helped close the deal for Serologicals to build in the East Hills Business Park, said Jonathan Sangster, an Atlanta-based consultant who worked on the project.
"Numerically, it didn't tip the scales, but it made a great impact on the company, in terms of the community's commitment to Serologicals," said Sangster, whose clients hire him to locate sites for new corporate headquarters, offices, manufacturing centers and warehouses that employ up to 1,500 people.
"It's a wonderful example of how a community came together, in a united approach, to go after a project like this."
Sangster used the Serologicals scholarship as an example of how to attract businesses during last week's "Roundtable in the Rockies," a gathering in Colorado of eight national site selectors and a few dozen other economic-development officials.
The gathering allowed professionals to work on honing their messages in the competitive market for jobs and corporate investment.
The Serologicals plant remains a big win for Lawrence, he said, despite the company's decision last month to lay off 20 employees as the operation awaits validation of its manufacturing processes by major customers. Serologicals hopes to move into full production by the end of the year, making a liquid to promote cell growth for use by researchers and major pharmaceutical companies.
Lynn Parman, vice president for economic development at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, attended the three-day conference in Colorado.
Parman said she was pleased to confirm her belief that building partnerships pays off.
Building partnerships means both bringing together key players in a community -- including elected officials, financial institutions, site planners and government staffers -- and developing relationships between chamber staffers and the site selectors themselves.
So far, she said, the strategy is working. Her office is fielding far more inquiries than it did at this point a year ago.
"We're getting noticed," said Parman, who attended the conference alongside colleagues from Dallas, Nashville and other communities. "We're doing the right things. We're being validated, in terms of what we do on a day-to-day basis."
Sangster, who is senior managing director for CB Richard Ellis Consulting, said that Lawrence had plenty going for it, including "the university, good schools, accessibility to a major market, competitive economic-development packages" and even creative marketing materials, such as the "target" Lawrence pen he keeps on his desk, alongside a ceramic Jayhawk.
The key, he said, will be continuing to build relationships through the Kansas City Area Development Council.
"Lawrence, on its own, might have a challenging time getting itself on the map or radar screen for major projects," he said. "That affiliation with KCADC, and building off that relationship, will be really beneficial for Lawrence."