Officials with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce say they're seeing results from a major campaign to beef up the city's economic development efforts.
Now, with the end of the Excellence by Design campaign approaching in 2006, they're starting to look to the future.
"I'd be in favor of re-upping for this kind of program again," said Kelvin Heck, a broker with Grubb & Ellis/Winbury Group and former chamber president. "You'd lower your visibility considerably without this campaign."
Since 2002, the campaign has doubled the Chamber's economic development program to $600,000 a year. The campaign is funded through $1.2 million in pledges from 121 private businesses.
"Before, we were spending less than $300,000 a year on economic development," said Lynn Parman, vice president for economic development. "Once you paid the light bill and a couple of staff people, there wasn't enough for Douglas County to attract companies like we should."
Specifically, Excellence by Design has allowed more contacts with business site consultants. Parman and others made 12 "business development" trips during 2004 and sent mailings to companies.
They're also working on a database that lists available buildings and sites in Lawrence for prospective businesses.
"What this has allowed us to do is go from being reactive to being proactive," Parman said. "We're putting our best foot forward."
Parman credited the campaign with attracting five new businesses in 2004, up from one in 2003 and two in 2002. The largest was ProtectionOne, which moved its headquarters to the I-70 Business Center.
Excellence by Design also has worked on keeping expansion of existing businesses in Lawrence. There were 21 building or work force expansions in 2004, up from 10 the previous year.
Parman said she expected more good news in 2005.
"I predict 2005 will be a good year, based on the projects we have in the pipeline," she said.
With funding on the campaign running out in 2006, the success has Parman and others focused on what to do next. She said the chamber likely would organize a committee to examine the future of economic development funding.
Heck, who helped organize the initial Excellence by Design campaign, said he thought businesses would support another set of investments in the community's future.
"Basically it was a chance for the business community to step up and say, 'We support what Lawrence and Douglas County is doing and want to see more happen than is currently happening,'" Heck said. "I believe it has done what we set out to do. I know job creation has been strong in Douglas County, given the economic situation after 9-11. We've had a pretty good bounce-back in jobs."