Archive for Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chamber transition

The search for a new CEO will present both challenges and opportunities for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

April 5, 2008


When any high-profile leader steps down - whether it's a county or city administrator, a university chancellor or a chamber CEO - it gives a community the opportunity to assess its goals and priorities.

It was announced Friday that Lavern Squier will step down as president and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce after five years in that post. The press release indicated he would leave the job after "an appropriate transition period" to pursue other opportunities. The chairman of the chamber's board of directors noted that Squier's talents would be hard to replace.

In the press release, Squier said that the approach of his five-year anniversary with the chamber "gives us all a cause to evaluate our program of work and look forward to the opportunities that await us." That, he said, includes individual opportunities for himself as well as opportunities for the chamber and community.

While a transition in a key position like the chamber executive always poses some challenges, it also suggests opportunities. The search committee representing the chamber should conduct a broad search to find a new executive who will bring both experience and vision to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The community may be at a crossroads from which it can either slide or prosper. The new chamber CEO will be a key person in setting what we all hope will be a successful course for Lawrence's future.

Friday's press release listed a number of chamber accomplishments and collaborative efforts that were initiated during Squier's tenure. The community should thank Squier for his service to Lawrence and wish him well in the future.


cato_the_elder 10 years, 2 months ago

It's often said that perception is 90% of reality. Since the late 70's, Lawrence has created and maintained the perception of being anti-business, while Johnson County has created and maintained the perception of being just the opposite. In reality, each is an exaggeration. There have been successes in bringing new business to Lawrence since the late 70's, but not as many as there could and should have been. Similarly, there are many more "NIMBYs" in Johnson County than most Lawrencians realize, and while Johnson County holds itself out as business-friendly, prospective businesses often have to jump through numerous hoops there too. Newer Lawrencians need to realize that the Hallmark plant, for example, did not just simply materialize out of nowhere - there was an enormous amount of hard work put into getting Hallmark here in the late 1950's, and those efforts have paid off handsomely for both Lawrence and Hallmark. The same can be said of a number of other key employers that have chosen to locate here since then. Our problem in recent years has been the perception, fueled by egregious examples of hostility such as the American Eagle controversy, that continue to harm our ability to get businesses to locate here. The way I see it, (1) the folks who profess to be "pro-worker" in their sensibilities need to realize that in order for as many people as possible to work they must have jobs, especially private-sector jobs, and not every company's every internal policy is always going to be, or even needs to be, to their liking; and (2) the Chamber needs to stick to the business of recruiting major companies to come to Lawrence, rather than continually getting involved in local political battles that are not strictly business-related. During the tenure of one of Mr. Squier's predecessors over a decade ago, the Chamber began to be obsessed with pushing its various positions on local political issues, a role that Chamber leaders in Lawrence had never previously undertaken to that extent, and passed completely on the opportunity to get a new Russell Stover plant here - despite the company's owners' well-known support of K.U. and its athletic programs. The plant was built in Abilene. The simple fact is that you can debate the issue of residential growth/sprawl (depending on your point of view) all you want, but there can be no debate as to the need for new jobs in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

The city's current budget. crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by single-family housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.The failure to recognize that housing does not pay for itself and respond accordingly has created many many problems for Lawrence,Kansas. The Chamber is over loaded with builders/developers influence. Thus the city,county and planning commissions are pushed to the same mentality. Instead of maintaining a slower,practical and methodical growth influence.Notice the housing boom did not contain property taxes to a normal cost of living increase of 3%-4%. The normal Lawrence rate it seems has been 7%-11% for that past 20 years. The new sewage rate increase will be at 9% annually. The build build build at any cost to taxpayers without any real substantial direction will not generate tax relief for taxpayers nor produce the jobs that provide plenty of expendable income to drive a local economy.The huge rush to spend tons of tax dollars on the new light industrial boom mentality is without foundation. There is no real need for this development that will again get into the taxpayers wallet. It is more of the pretend mentality. As of today who is coming? There is plenty and I mean plenty of light industrial spacebetween Farmland/East Hills area that extends to Eudora,Desoto and the Kansas City/JOCO metro(the big guns).Lawrence needs solid thinking not illusions.In tough times cities have been known to put money back into rehabilitatation of the central business district/downtown and neighboring infrastructure. Rather than go down the road of creating NEW liability to the taxpayers. There are only so many retail and tax dollars available to city/county governments. Further extending NEW taxpayer liabilitiesdoes not make dollars or sense. Were we not taught as children it is always a good investment to take care of existing things rather than allow things to go to hell?

toefungus 10 years, 2 months ago

What do you bet the position, after an exhaustive search, will go to a well connected insider which will keep the status quo well in place privately, while at the same time promising a new era to the masses. Gee, I hope I am wrong. Chamber 1.0 for 50 years.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 2 months ago

"Our problem in recent years has been the perception, fueled by egregious examples of hostility such as the American Eagle controversy, that continue to harm our ability to get businesses to locate here."There was no such hostility towards American Eagle. The hostility was towards the corporate welfare they demanded for bringing in mostly entry-level jobs, and their insistence on paving over 80 acres of floodplain/ farmland rather than locating in the adjacent business park which had already been established for such ventures, at considerable public expense (and profiting greatly many chamber insiders.)And ultimately, their decision not to locate here was based not on anything Lawrence did, but rather the availability of an existing building in Ottawa, and that city's willingness to bend over backwards for them, likely profiting handsomely a small handful of people at the expense of Ottawa and Franklin County taxpayers.

burtreynolds 10 years, 2 months ago

Merrill: you're an idiot. What the heck are you even talking about? Do you really think that residential building only is sustainable? Where the hell do you get your information, Christopher Lowell? Go to college.

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