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Archive for Saturday, October 8, 2005

Federal financing sought for labs

Lawrence officials ask for funds at Capitol

October 8, 2005

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Leaders of an effort to build Lawrence into a bioscience powerhouse are looking to Washington for financial help.

Lavern Squier, president and chief executive officer of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said that plans were gaining momentum locally for making high-tech lab space available for prospective and growing bioscience operations.

With Lawrence and Douglas County governments already having committed a total of $400,000 next year for the project, officials now are hoping to drum up some federal assistance.

"It will be a significant price tag," Squier said.

Squier and other local officials traveled to Washington earlier this week to meet with congressional staffers about a variety of issues, including the developing laboratories project.

Others on the trip were Shirley Martin-Smith, chamber chairwoman; Pat Flavin, the chamber's chairman-elect; Judy Billings, a chamber senior vice president and leader of the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau; Mayor Boog Highberger; City Manager Mike Wildgen; and Charles Jones, chairman of the Douglas County Commission.

All are part of an effort to establish a local bioscience board, whose members would be dedicated to supporting development of new technologies in town and attracting other such businesses to locate in the Lawrence area. The first tangible project would be construction of the lab space.

While no site has been identified, no design compiled and no final budget established, Squier said, the goal remains: create the kind of high-tech space - complete with sectioned ventilation systems and other features necessary for highly specified operations - that could draw the kind of development that would spawn high-paying jobs for years ahead.

"We're actively in the game, in a specific sector," Squier said. "We're trying to make things happen by virtue of our own investment and planning."

Martin-Smith said she was confident that the meetings in Washington would pay off in the months and years ahead, as officials pursue the community's interests in the nation's capital.

"Everyone was very receptive and very positive," Martin-Smith said of their visits on Capitol Hill. "It was about opening lines of communication. If we're not heard, they can't know how to help us."

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