Archive for Thursday, October 12, 2006

Corliss touts economic development

October 12, 2006


Lawrence doesn't have just a new city manager. It also has a new pitchman when it comes to economic development, David Corliss told chamber of commerce leaders Wednesday.

"I definitely want to spend some time knocking on doors of regional and national companies to talk to them about bringing offices to Lawrence," said Corliss, who held his first townhall-type meeting with chamber officials since being named city manager about two weeks ago. "I think we have a lot to offer."

But Corliss said Lawrence isn't doing enough to attract new companies that offer above-average wages.

"I think we need to have a sense of urgency when it comes to economic development," Corliss told the crowd of about 30 business leaders who gathered at the Lawrence Public Library.

In addition to knocking on doors himself, Corliss said he wants to find ways to get city commissioners more involved in the recruitment process and also ways to tap into Kansas University's extensive list of alumni who have strong business contacts.

"I don't know what to do other than knocking on doors and getting the word out," Corliss said. "I think it is an empirical process. You just keep doing stuff until you find something that works."

Several business leaders at Wednesday's event applauded Corliss' focus on economic development, but said they hope he also leads an examination of whether the city needs to improve the incentives - items such as tax abatements - used to attract businesses.

"I definitely agree with him that we're relying too much on our residential property tax base," said Mark Gonzales, community market president for Capital City Bank. "But we really have to take a look at the incentives we use.

"We have to ask ourselves what it will take to bring high-paying jobs to town because everybody wants those. The competition is intense."

Corliss made it clear that his plans don't include abandoning the current partnership the city has with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and Douglas County. Currently, the city and county provide funding to the chamber to operate an economic development department that is the prime recruiter for the community. Corliss said several times that he wants to continue that partnership, but as part of the 2007 budget Corliss prepared, city commissioners approved a new economic development coordinator position that will be overseen by Corliss.

On other issues brought up at the meeting, Corliss:

l Said the city will soon be facing key decisions about how it will grow west of the South Lawrence Trafficway and south of the Wakarusa River. Corliss has said the city needs to do better at getting ahead of growth in those areas by planning where major roads will go, where parks will be and determining other key issues before development pressures mount.

"The commission will get to wrestle with those issues," Corliss said. "I don't know if I'm going to wrestle with them or just be the referee or maybe a WWF-type of announcer."

l Expounded on what he's looking for in a new planning director.

"We need a strong manager who knows how to manage people and projects," Corliss said. "We probably don't want someone who loves the technical skills of planning as opposed to managing projects and timelines."

Some audience members, though, urged Corliss to also look for a big-picture thinker.

"The one piece that I didn't hear was vision," said Frank Male, an owner of Lawrence Landscaping and a former planning commissioner. "I think we really need to have someone with vision. We really should already have the area south of the Wakarusa planned by now."

l Made his strongest statements yet that he thinks Census Bureau estimates that show Lawrence's population has been essentially stagnant the last five years are wrong.

"I think Lawrence is going to continue to grow," Corliss said. "I don't know what the Census Bureau was drinking. Everything I know about Lawrence and Northeast Kansas tells me that Lawrence is going to continue to grow."


sprango 11 years, 5 months ago

Hey, someone should ask the new city manager why there are two guys with a jackhammer tearing up the intersection of New Hampshire and 8th, which was just paved two days ago?

cowboy 11 years, 5 months ago

while your all touting around just stay north of the wakarusa, dont cross the line , quit touching me , quit looking at me, im tellin dad !he's toutin me !

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 5 months ago

Doesn't 'tout' have something to do with horseracing cheats?

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 5 months ago

Its all a plot to disturb the LJW newsroom so that they can't concentrate. Maybe to extort positive coverage--as in: Say good things about city or jackhammering NEVER ends! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (difficult to type manical laugh)

If you have a question, I have a ridiculous conspiracy for you.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 5 months ago

This is clear step in the right direction. Corliss has the right idea about what the city needs to stay alive. The businesses run by the "old blood" on Mass have had their day and its time to allow the free market the thin the herd and make way for new ideas, new innovation, and new competition.

The major hurdle Mr. Corliss, is to present the City as a pro-business community. Endless litigation with Wal-mart, a viciously negative attitude toward big-box stores, case studies to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars as a condition precedent to even obtaining a business license, and forcing all business into the 8 block downtown area is the fastest way to scare a prospective business away. Why come to Lawrence with all this when there are plenty of communities in Johnson County that welcome businesses like mom welcomes her kids to Thanksgiving dinner.

In sum, City Hall needs to drop the Karl Marx dogma and further drop the clean their pockets out before they get here mentality and then you'll see some interest. Otherwise, there will always be way more attractive suitors just a few minutes down the road.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

The point with Walmart is not so much the new jobs, even though they will pay higher and with more benefits than 99% of the Downtown Lawrence merchants and the Merc pays, its that they will compete with Target, Dillons, Hy-Vee, The Merc, Home Depot, Office Depot, Best Buy et. al. to keep prices low through aggressive competition for a variety of consumer goods. This helps to keep the cost of living in Lawrence competitive with larger metro areas.

In addition we expect Walmart to pay lots and lots of lovely property taxes and collect lots and lots of lovely sales taxes so that we can afford to do those things in this community that helps to attract companies with "high paying" jobs. Still if your focus is on "higher paying" jobs than what Downtown Lawrence and The Merc pays, welcome Walmart with open arms.

Confrontation 11 years, 5 months ago




  1. misleading talk: intentionally misleading talk or propaganda ( informal )

  2. loud celebration: a noisy excited commotion or joyous celebrating ( slang )

  3. great public uproar: a great amount of public fuss, commotion, or uproar with attendant publicity or media interest ( slang )

jafs 11 years, 5 months ago

It's interesting that people who want high-paying jobs seem to be pro-Wal-Mart and other big-box stores. These are not the kind of businesses that bring good full-time jobs to town. I think we should try to identify businesses which might bring the kind of jobs that are needed and see what can be done to attract them. This doesn't mean that we should indiscriminately allow more development and big-box stores. In fact, studies have shown that Wal-Mart's effect on a community is basically neutral, in that it puts a number of smaller businesses out of business, and the jobs it creates merely replace others which have been lost. And, of course, most of the jobs created are lower-paying, low benefit entry-level jobs. See "The Bully of Bentonville" for details.

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 5 months ago

The animal speaks of sacrilege. Of course you know if the free market were allowed to dictate what went into downtown, every vacancy would be filled with another bar. I can't see any box stores wanting to squeeze in.

I would also say that it is only bad to bar so-called "box stores", but having them develop to something acceptable to a particular community isn't so bad. Otherwise, you need the city limit signs to know where you are. Out in the JoCo, it is tough to tell what city you are in from one block to the next. Leawood is ok, but parts of the OP and Olathe and Lenexa all seem to be going the same way. Indistinguishable despite being populated by a myriad of diverse folk.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

Gee who knew it was so easy! Just go door to door touting Lawrence and watch the "high paying" jobs start rolling in. Ever notice how these touting touters are short on details? I can't wait to hear the response to the inevitible question, "So why Lawrence, and whats so great about Lawrence?"

"Ummm, well we have a Business Czar (you'll meet him soon enough), reduced penalities for pot use, and Boog dollars. We haven't banned cell phones and haven't enacted a "living wage", yet. Our housing costs are the highest in the State and our sales tax will soon join it. And we have a swamp."

"The City Kommission can't balance the budget nor maintain the streets but we have lots of roundabouts for our empty buses. We are 25 miles away from Topeka and really close to KC, but don't expect the SLT to reduce the congestion on the roads. In a couple of years our "smart" (ie negative) growth should reduce the numbers. Did I forget to mention our swamp?"

"Feel free to smoke on our sidewalks but not in any of our numerous bars, there are no colorfull balloons to distract you, and the homeless are mostly harmless (just give them a smoke and you'll have a needy friend for life). And we have a swamp!"

Face it folks, Lawrence has NOTHING to offer these "high paying" jobs, if we did they be knocking down our doors and cueing up. You may think that Lawrence (and your big boned sister who has a wonderful personality) is a beauty queen but the rest of the world just doesn't see it that way. You can tout both all you want but unless your victim is drunk or desperate neither is likely to get lucky.

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