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Letters to the Editor

Chamber role

May 13, 2008

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To the editor:

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is seeking a new president and CEO. This presents an opportunity to rethink the role of the chamber in economic development.

The chamber is, as it should be, an advocate for the business community. Economic development involves the expansion of the local economy though public-private partnerships using a minimum of taxpayer expenditure and generating a maximum of new jobs, wages and tax revenues.

The chamber cannot be both an advocate for the business community and fairly represent the taxpayers in the design, negotiation and implementation of economic development programs. Too many of the chamber's actions in the past have misled the city into failed tax incentives, speculative buildings that sit empty, secret illegal meetings and offering unnecessary subsidies to high-risk firms, all at taxpayer expense. This is a record of failure that the taxpayers cannot afford.

Economic development planning should be carried out by skilled, professional planners who are employed by the city and answer only to the City Commission. It is foolish to think that anyone who is on the payroll of the Chamber of Commerce will go against the wishes of the chamber and side with the interests of the taxpayers when these interests are in conflict, as they frequently are.

The city needs to redefine the role of the chamber and bring economic development inside City Hall, leaving the Chamber of Commerce to advocate for business from outside City Hall, along with all the other advocacy groups.

Kirk McClure,
Lawrence

Comments

Godot 6 years, 7 months ago

Contrary to McClure's conclusion, the Chamber is not failing in its role of economic engine for Lawrence because it is private, it is failing because it began to operate as a quasi government agency. Remove the government from the chamber, and it will become a relevant economic development organization again.The city no proper role in defining a private organization like the Chamber. The city should withdraw all funding from the chamber, and the city shoulid remove itself entirely from economic development planning. It should establish strong zoning, fair and efficient office for issuing permits and doing inspections. It should never, ever, involve itself in approving whether a business can or cannot open in Lawrence unless that business violates existing zoning.No tax abatements or subsidies should be granted until a policy has been established that is fair and equitable and can be administered in the open.The more this city government involves itself in economic development activities, the worse the local business environment becomes.

BigPrune 6 years, 7 months ago

What the Chamber needs is a strong economic development leader who will turn a deaf ear to the complaining vocal Progressive minority who took a financially thriving community and put it in the poor house.The Chamber needs to regroup, weed out the non-business members and concentrate solely on ecomomic development without holding out an olive branch to the strung out old hippies who have run this great city into the ground.

Godot 6 years, 7 months ago

Burress was wrong in 2007, and he is wrong now. The city has no responsibility to determine what businesses are "right" for Lawrence. The City should have no say whatsoever about the leadership and operation of the Chamber of Commerce. However, since the City of Lawrence provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Chamber, some would say that the City has the right to influence Chamber leadership. Chamber members should demand that the Chamber refuse all monies from the City so that they can remain free of City influence. Lawrence citizens should demand that the City stop funding the Chamber. The two entities should be separate.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

Thank you David Burress for these excellent suggestions on November 12,2007:If our political leaders want to improve job opportunities in Douglas County while minimizing cost to taxpayers and maintaining quality of life, they should do some common-sense things they haven't yet done:1. Commission an independent study of what industries are best for us, and what land and other resources they need, and what industries are counterproductive;2. Develop specific targets for industries, job numbers and quality, industrial land, and all other necessary resources;3. Adopt comprehensive plans showing which land and other resources will be provided, when it will be infrastructured, and how it will be financed;4. Perform thorough and public due diligence and then enter into hard-headed deals that include compliance with plans, binding wage standards, clawbacks for nonperformance, and public equity shares commensurate with public risk and public inputs;5. Enforce those deals in a business-like fashion.On the current front as a taxpayer the following are also important when items of growth appear on the agendas of our decision making bodies. Exactly how is each Chamber of Commerce Board member, city,county or planning commissioner invested with: the real estate/development communityDevelopers/Builders the new industrial park projects Existing industrial parks Housing Projects Retail ProjectsI would like this info disclosed for each agenda item under oath please. How many Chamber board members, county,city or planning commissioners or city staff are invested in Dicephera ?I would like this info disclosed under oath please. All of the above should be a matter of public record for reasons of transparency. For all sitting board members, elected officials and Chamber of Commerce officials who disagree, I suggest resignation

ynotnow 6 years, 7 months ago

The county funds Economic Development too...why is just the City funding you have a problem with?Also--do you honestly think that a business would WANT to come here? To be beat up at commission meetings and told that they have to follow "hard-headed deals" when the community down the road is welcoming them with open arms and tax abatements? It is basic business. If I go here I get a 5 year 100% tax abatement...if I go here I will get beat up on and they still won't give me any incentive. Hmmm...how should I frame the financial future of my business? Lawrence is not that cool to make a CFO just have to be here. And East Hills paid over $2 million in taxes last year alone. Let alone the income taxes and then add the wages that are producing sales tax. Do your research.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

Yes I agree the city should pull funding from the Chamber because of not meeting the city's demand for a solid economy. Boom town economies never last and end abruptly.The Chamber of Commerce is suppose to seek what will keep the economy strong. Instead it over loads retail which only creates economic displacement. Does the Chamber needs more experienced help?Will a new CEO make things better? I do not see how. The executive board is maybe the problem... they still represent the same old tired ways of the last 20 years.This Chamber and commissioners want new business to locate to Lawrence at the same time there is no security for new business because the powers that be will soon build more that will house competition which could put new business out of business. Why? There are only so many retail dollars available in any community.Over built residential with no employment increases fees and taxes in a community. Perhaps the builders/developers are dictating growth beyond the city's capacity to support and moving way too fast instead of slow and methodical.

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