Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Town Talk: Lawrence’s slide down the rankings; West Lawrence recreation center to get discussed; a parade of leg warmers?

August 3, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• I hate to be a killjoy, but … Some of you may have noticed the news yesterday that Lawrence landed on Forbes’ list for the Small Best Places for Business and Careers. Lawrence ranked 43rd on the list. First of all, Lawrence has always been on the list. Every metro area under about 300,000 gets ranked whether they want to or not. There was a time Lawrence economic development leaders were very excited about being on the list. Now, I’m not so sure. Lawrence’s performance on the list peaked in 2004 when the city ranked sixth on the list. In 2003, we were seventh. In 2002, we were ninth. In terms of whether our 2011 ranking of 43rd at least marked a move in the right direction, it didn’t. Lawrence was ranked 21st in the 2010 list.

For fun, I found an article I wrote about the list in 2003, when were in the middle of our top 10 run. Back then our showing on the list really was a good selling point. We were the top ranked small metro area in all of Kansas and Missouri. Back then, we were told that was a big deal because those were the communities we most often competed with for major projects. Now, of course, we’re not the top ranked small metro area in Kansas or Missouri. Manhattan got all the headlines by taking the No. 1 spot on the list. (My 8-year old son tells me he’s still not going to wear purple.) Here’s a look at how other area cities fared:

  1. Manhattan: No. 1
  2. Columbia, Mo.: No. 8
  3. Iowa City, Iowa: No. 13
  4. Ames, Iowa: No. 24
  5. Lawrence: No. 43
  6. Jefferson City, Mo: No. 55
  7. Joplin, Mo.: No. 59
  8. St. Joseph, Mo. No. 92
  9. Topeka: No. 102

Lawrence fares as well as it does on the Forbes list because we do really well in one category: Our educational attainment. In fact, we ranked No. 1 on the list in that category. But the category that many community leaders want to rank No. 1 on is job growth. We ranked 88th out of the 184 communities that were ranked. Of that list of nine regional communities above, we rank last.

One last number for you. I went back and looked at our ranking for each of the last 10 years. Our ranking in 2011 was our third worst out of the last 10 years. Our lowest ranking came in 2006 when we were 60th. We also were at 49 in 2007. Our average ranking over the last 10 years has been about 26th. Now we’re at 43. I wonder how everyone would feel if KU’s men’s basketball ranking dropped so much.

A pitch for a 1980s downtown parade

Lawrence television show host Mike Anderson makes a pitch to Lawrence City commissioners in August 2011 for a 1980s-themed downtown parade. Enlarge video

• The 2003 article from above was fun to read. It quoted Lynn Parman, who was the chamber’s vice president of economic development during that time. I’ve heard her name brought up around town recently. As the chamber searches for a new president and CEO to replace the departing Tom Kern (remember, he’s taking a similar job in Steamboat Springs), I expect Parman’s name to get mentioned. So far, it seems the chamber wants somebody who has some Lawrence experience. But there is news about Parman that some in Lawrence may not be aware of. Parman left Lawrence about six years ago to go to the Kansas City Area Development Council, where she headed up the group’s efforts to attract bioscience companies. Well, earlier this year she left the development council to join St. Joseph-based Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. She’s now a director of sales and marketing support functions for that company. I still expect her name to come up, but I have no insight into whether she has any interest in returning to Lawrence or a chamber position.

While we’re wildly speculating about the Chamber job, going through the list of Forbes rankings for the past 10 years did familiarize me with several smaller communities that seem to stand out for a good business reputation. Sioux Falls, S.D., seems to be to that Forbes list what Kansas basketball is to the A.P.’s Top 10. I’m not certain, but I believe Sioux Falls was ranked in the top 10 every year for the last 10 years. Bismarck, N.D., also was close behind. Anybody got any connections up north? We could tell them that we have Miami-like weather.

• Expect some discussion out of City Hall about a new West Lawrence recreation center. A couple of members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board came to the city’s budget hearing Tuesday night and expressed frustration that the City Commission hasn’t done more to communicate whether it is behind a recreation center project or not. The two board members — Joe Caldwell and Kevin Loos — asked commissioners to have a study session with the recreation board. The hope is the city can spell out at least a five-year vision for the department and any new projects it hopes to undertake. Commissioners said they thought a study session sounded like a good idea, but did not set a date.

• There’s ordinary crazy at City Hall, and then there is what we saw Tuesday night during the public comment section of the meeting. I was tending to a couple of details in my notes, when a fellow in a blazer and slacks steps to the lectern and starts by asking whether “it would please the court” if he could have five minutes of time. He then launches into a plea for parades. Understand, I’ve sat through nearly 20 years of public comment sessions at City Hall, so at this point I’m still dividing my attention. But then the fellow pulls out his own portable music box, complete with dramatic-themed music. The guy was Mike Anderson, the host of the Not So Late Show, a comedy program on Knology’s Channel 6. What he was advocating was to use Downtown Lawrence for a parade unlike any Lawrence has seen — “a parade that our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren will remember forever.” Then a pair of cheerleaders with pom-poms enter the room. OK, so now I’m paying a little more attention. (Near this point, I start to film the speech. The video now can be found to the side of this article.) Anderson is calling for a parade that would honor the 1980s. Anderson said think of tributes to "Top Gun," Ronald Reagan, leg warmers. Anderson made it sound like much is on the line for Lawrence. At one point he told a story about a young man who ended up living a life of grand larceny. His hometown: One parade a year. Then he told about the inventor of the hula-hoop. His hometown: Five parades a year. How about American legend Davy Crockett? His hometown: Seven parades a year. Commissioners took the comments in stride. I believe Mayor Aron Cromwell knows Anderson, but I don’t think Cromwell knew such public comment was coming his way. Cromwell said the city would take the request under advisement. Afterward, Anderson said he is “dead serious” about wanting to have a 1980s parade in downtown. He said he’s even begun the process of contacting Steve Guttenberg to serve as grand marshal.

“I’m a fan,” Anderson said.


irvan moore 6 years, 5 months ago

ah what the heck, i might as well be consistant. i blame the city commissioners.

townie79 6 years, 5 months ago

an 80's parade here in Lawrence with The Guttenberg as Grand Marshall?!?!?! YES PLEASE...HOW CAN I HELP!!

"Keep Lawrence Weird"

George Lippencott 6 years, 5 months ago

Expect some discussion out of City Hall about a new West Lawrence recreation center

Why don't we put this to a vote and find out just how strong support is??

George Lippencott 6 years, 5 months ago

I live on the west side and I do not support it - at least not now!

ilovelucy 6 years, 5 months ago

The Not So Late show is horrible. An embarrassment. It stinks.
I don't think this is the right time to launch a campaign for a rec center in West Lawrence.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 5 months ago

I saw a couple of minutes of the show and thought "this is the person who WON the auditions?" I am sure I am not in the age demo they want anyway.

Bassetlover 6 years, 5 months ago

Lynn Parman would be a phenomenal Chamber President for us. She was an amazing VP of Economic Development when she was here, the best ever. But I don't see her leaving her new job in St. Joe. She is extremely happy there and I think coming back to Lawrence would be a step backwards for her. She has evolved and grown even more during the six years she has been gone. As for Lawrence, not so much.

Catalano 6 years, 5 months ago

Agree. Glad she's happy in her new job. It was a loss for Lawrence when she split for KCADC, but she saw the handwriting on the wall. Interesting she's back in St. Joe...that's where she came to Lawrence from.

guesswho 6 years, 5 months ago

Ohh..bring back the 1988 NCAA basketball championship team, those who filmed 1980's "The Day After", etc.

infiniD 6 years, 5 months ago

I was at the meeting last night and couldn't stop laughing at Anderson's speech. About time we bring some levity to Lawrence. Way to go!

dogsandcats 6 years, 5 months ago

I love the idea of the 80s parade, but that guy from the Not so Late Show is not funny. That show sucks. I can only imagine the horrible lack of talent they had audition to have picked that guy for the host.

John Hamm 6 years, 5 months ago

Re: List of communities for business - Heck, look at the leadership some (very few) Lawrence leaders choose and those they choose to run the community........ Nowhere to go but DOWN.

John Hamm 6 years, 5 months ago

Rats! Should've proofread better. Second "leaders" should be "voters." Sorry

blindrabbit 6 years, 5 months ago

What do you expect with an antiquated form of City Government, a non-functioning (except for realtors and developers) Chamber of Commerce, business owners not working together and a Downtown Lawrence Association that can't seem to get it's act together after many fits and starts. So much potential, so little progress!

blindrabbit 6 years, 5 months ago

bassetlover: Lynn would never reveal her age when she was in Lawrence! Maybe the intervening 6 years has only added 4 to hers; just curious! My recollection re her was somewhat less gratuitous than yours! By-the-way, our neighbor has 2 basset hounds that visit us on a regular basis; what a hoot!

Bassetlover 6 years, 5 months ago

I believe Lynn is somewhere in the 36-38 year range, can't remember exactly. But she was upfront about it. Please give those bassets a tummy and ear rub for me, please!

Kelly Johnson 6 years, 5 months ago

He probably googled it and was able to click through. I've never successfully found anything through the ljworld search engine.

Kelly Johnson 6 years, 5 months ago

If Steve Guttenberg isn't available, I say let's go after Rick Moranis.

d_prowess 6 years, 5 months ago

Great video. I just wish the cheerleaders where holding an American Flag behind him, instead of just shaking pom-poms.

Will Soo 6 years, 5 months ago

We need a skating rink. Yep. Problems solved.

SDTPlant 6 years, 5 months ago

For those of you Larrytown residents who have not looked around your fair city lately, I'd encourage you to do so. Sliding down the rankings? "Looks like up to me." I've long thought that, while Larrytown is one of my favorite small cities, it's self importance is/was, ahem, a little too elevated. Yes, it has/had things that differentiated it from the other cities locally and nationally.

For many years, some of you blamed the increase in crime on other cities in the area, e.g., Topeka. What you failed to understand or were blinded to through your vin rose colored glasses was the fact that you were importing much of it into your city with the presence of your two institutions of higher learning. Oh no, could it be?

The Mass Street area has charm that I wouldn't want to see diminished. However, you have other problems infrastructurally that will make it difficult to attract business. How about water for example? Check out the availability of freshwater vs. projected growth.

We could go on with this. However, the point has been made.

Continued good luck with your attempts to be a beacon and a bastion of difference in "What's the Matter With Kansas?"

spicybeef 6 years, 5 months ago

How weird. It's almost like Mike attended a popular local comedy show, saw a musical version of The Day After with Guttenberg as the main character and a sketch about wacky parades with retro themed floats and tried to pass them off as his own ideas the very next week in the most inappropriate setting imaginable.

Nah, couldn't be. No one's that desperate for attention or material.

larrytownfan 6 years, 5 months ago

How weird indeed. Although it does appear from this link below that I found- the NSLS actually discussed the idea of parade with Steve Guttenberg on their fourth show which aired on July 6, 2011- several weeks before this certain local comedy show. How weird indeed.

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