Archive for Friday, December 21, 2007

New position at City Hall to scrutinize development

December 21, 2007


City seeking economic development expert

There's a new vacancy at Lawrence City Hall, and leaders are looking to fill it for the first time. The city is seeking an Economic Development Coordinator-Planner. Enlarge video

Tax abatements, tax rebates and other emerging economic development incentives soon will be under more scrutiny at City Hall.

City Manager David Corliss has begun advertising for a new position that will provide city commissioners recommendations on a variety of economic development issues.

"I think it is very important that the city get an independent analysis of economic development requests," Corliss said.

Specifically, the new position - titled an Economic Development Coordinator-Planner - would examine the costs and benefits of tax abatement requests, review tax increment financing projects and examine projects using the Neighborhood Revitalization Act.

All those economic development incentives involve using public tax dollars for a private project. The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce - which has a contract to do economic development marketing for the city - does some analysis of whether a project is worthy of a public investment. But some commissioners said that review needs to be done by somebody inside city government.

"I think the chamber probably will still take the lead on efforts to recruit businesses to town," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "But when it comes to working out incentives, the chamber doesn't have the same interest in our bottom line that we do."

Corliss said he didn't envision the new position eliminating the need for the city to contract with the chamber. Corliss said the chamber was the logical organization to recruit new businesses, and he said he was not planning to recommend that funding to the chamber be reduced.

"But I am insisting as strongly as I can that we do our own analysis," Corliss said.

Economic development activities have become a point of controversy after city commissioners were found to have violated the state's open meetings law by holding an executive session to discuss an economic development incentives package to Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, a startup company that was considering leaving Lawrence.

The major part of that violation was that chamber president Lavern Squier illegally attended the closed-door meeting.

Squier said that he respected the city's decision, but stopped short of endorsing it.

"If the person ends up doing what they're advertising for, I think we will have more information and data to work with," Squier said.

Privately, some community leaders have expressed concern that the new position could lead to a reduction in funding for the chamber and a weakening of the economic development partnership between the city, county and chamber.

Several city leaders on Thursday, however, said they didn't think the new position would reduce the amount of money the city provides to the chamber to do economic development work.

"I don't see it as a tradeout," City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said, although he said all portions of the city budget may be under strain and subject to cuts in 2009.

Chestnut, though, said he supported the new position because economic development incentives were becoming more complicated, and the city often didn't have clear-cut policies on how to use them.

The city's accepting applications through mid-January, and expects to have the position filled in early 2008. The position is scheduled to pay between $53,000 to $78,000.

In addition to reviewing specific projects, Corliss said the position could help with longer-range issues such as the redevelopment of the Farmland Industries property, assisting on efforts related to the National Heritage Area designation, and serving as a city liaison for regional bioscience activities.

The position originally was approved as part of the 2007 budget by the previous City Commission. Budget concerns stopped the position from being filled in 2007, but the current commission left the position in the 2008 budget.


Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

The Oread Inn analysis was an in house analysis provided by an Oread Inn interested party. Another view would be healthy from a taxpayers point of view.

I support this position and I still believe bringing economic development into the city would provide far more transparency for citizen taxpayers.

As it stands the Chamber of Commerce appears more of a special interest group which their endorsements for local commissioner candidates support that concern. Back door meetings so to speak is further support of that concern.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

hi how can we help you,the answer is no no no go away and dont come back

Scott Drummond 9 years, 11 months ago

If the cronies and inside dealers at the chamber of commerce oppose it, then I can only conclude it will be good for Lawrence. Long overdue.

KS 9 years, 11 months ago

Did not the City just lay off a couple of people a few months ago due to not having enough money in the budget to pay for them? Are we not in a budget crunch? What changed? Merry Christmas to all. See you after the holidays.

burtreynolds 9 years, 11 months ago

Considering the ROI that the chamber has offered the city over the past few years, this is probably a step in the right direction. Let's continue to work Squire out of town as well as Beth Johnson so our city can recover from the reputation we've gained of being arrogant (Squire) and incompetent (BJ). Good for you, Corliss, just don't expect this to automatically lead to great. It's better to let the business community grow the business community, not city government.

Ragingbear 9 years, 11 months ago

More like they are seeking another position that will help them siphon funds into their accounts without being noticed.

blackwalnut 9 years, 11 months ago

What's wrong with Portland?

Portland was always considered a model city as far as city planning goes, and a city planner they had for a couple of decades is given the credit for that.

blackwalnut 9 years, 11 months ago

They should get rid of the mayor who also is employed by the Chamber of Commerce. That is a little too cozy to serve Lawrence well.

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 11 months ago

YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME! Another wasteful, overpaid position where the employee is going to march right down the "party" line (and we all know whose line that is) on every proposal. As for the chamber it's high time they had their funding cut a little! It's also about time they started doing something to get reasonable jobs into this city! Not every Lawrence resident is qualified for a Doctoral position. Them "suits" didn't build America - Middle class hard working people built America. But that's the kind of jobs this silly town doesn't want! I heard a comment yesterday that turned my stomach, "Well, maybe not everybody can afford to live in Lawrence." It's "Network" time folks. "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!"

blackwalnut 9 years, 11 months ago

What does the Chamber of Commerce really do for the city? Why is the city giving the Chamber an extra $100,000 this year, while cutting the services we've somehow been able to afford until the new commission was sworn in?

blackwalnut 9 years, 11 months ago

OnlyTheOne (Anonymous) says: Another wasteful, overpaid position where the employee is going to march right down the "party" line (and we all know whose line that is) on every proposal.

It will give the appearance of oversight. I seriously doubt it will stop the corruption and the gifts of taxpayer money to friends of the commissioners and mayor.

lunacydetector 9 years, 11 months ago

the legacy of killing lawrence by the progressives lives on! this will mean EXACTLY what 458casul said earlier. what a waste of money.

think about how many companies are beating a path to locate in restrictive towards business lawrence? we get one, maybe two companies a year! this person that the city hires will be sitting on their butt for months before giving the standard issue, "hell no, you must be joking, the city doesn't want you."

the question of the day is: is corliss an unofficial progressive? why else would he not guide the city commission about that open meetings business? perhaps to embarrass the supposed pro-business commissioners? or, were those types of meetings common place for years and years until finally challenged - meaning they happened when the no growth progressives were in power as well? the ones that challenged the open meetings business knew how the city operated - some of these same people wrote the recipe for the poison on 'how to kill lawrence.'

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

You're right, luny. The city doesn't need to analyze tax abatements and rebates at all. We should just abolish all business taxes and quadruple taxes on residential properties to pick up the slack. That way we'd be able to get every business in the country that doesn't need employees.

hk45 9 years, 11 months ago

City in crisis! We can only pay a 2% COLA raise, but we have the money to create another position out of no where?

lunacydetector 9 years, 11 months ago

bozo, just how difficult is it to analyze tax abatements? if company A wants to buy some cheap farmland that doesn't generate hardly any property taxes at all, and they want to build a $5 million plant and ask forgiveness on their property taxes for a period of years while creating 700 new jobs - it don't take a rocket scientist to figure out it will be a good deal for the city - the city won't be out hardly a dime because agricultural land doesn't get taxed squat.

end of story.

camper 9 years, 11 months ago

Why the heck do we even need a Chamber? The sun will continue to come up with out em'. They can't even remember the specifics about who decided to put Deciphera on the consent agenda. I say the Chamber should just take a walk. Go away.

plainspeaking 9 years, 11 months ago

Three questions: 1) how much will the new City position pay; 2) how much is the Chamber paid every year by the City; and 3) are the Chamber's books audited annually?

Godot 9 years, 11 months ago

The county is freezing all new hires for 2008 because of an unexpected $500,000 revenue shortfall. That must mean that the city will have a revenue shortfall of bigger proportion. Yet, the city goes merrily on its way, spending itself into oblivion.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

"the city won't be out hardly a dime because agricultural land doesn't get taxed squat."

Agricultural land doesn't require any services or infrastructure improvements, either. But I guess those little trivialities contradict your "free lunch" theory of economics.

blindrabbit 9 years, 11 months ago

The City could pay for the Economic Development position (which is sorely needed) by eliminating the person who is filling the role of Historic Resources Director and further cutting the contribution to the Chamber. While the Historic R.D. could and should be a valuable asset, this person/position has been very innefective. Lawrence should capitalize on it's history as an economic incentive but other than a few bronze plaques downtown there is little evidence. All of these positions could be combined into a very effective asset if only The City were hire a qualified and effectual individual.

camper 9 years, 11 months ago

In my opinion this appears to be Deciphera damage control....or spin, whatever you wish to call it.

lunacydetector 9 years, 11 months ago

so bozo, you're saying that an injection of say, $25,000,000 per year into the local economy by the salaries generated by 700 people working isn't worth the cost to add a few million in infrastructure to get the place running as well as a tax abatement to offset the start up costs associated with putting in a plant?

what were you saying about economics?

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