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Archive for Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chamber changes

Finding a dynamic CEO who will stay in the office for more than a few years would be a big benefit for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

July 31, 2011

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Historically, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce has played a key role in the business and civic life of Lawrence, but it is hard to maintain that position in the community without stable leadership.

Tom Kern announced his resignation last week to take a job as chamber CEO in Steamboat Springs, Colo. He was the third CEO hired by the Lawrence chamber since the departure of Gary Toebben in 1999.

Toebben’s 18-year tenure in Lawrence was unusually long in chamber circles, but having three different CEO’s in the last 12 years hasn’t been a plus for the Lawrence Chamber. No matter how qualified or skilled the people in that office are, it takes a while to get to know Lawrence and understand the community, and it’s difficult to undertake any significant initiatives before building rapport and confidence in the community.

It’s hard for the chamber to be a “player” in Lawrence when the organization’s key leadership face keeps changing.

Although the role of the Lawrence Chamber has changed somewhat in recent years, it still is a primary leader for economic development efforts in the city and county. City Commissioner Mike Dever is right when he says, “We don’t have any time to lose. We don’t have any extra breathing room on our economic development efforts.”

Many factors, not the least of which is the sagging state and national economy, have contributed to a period of slow economic growth in Lawrence for the last several years. The city is losing retail dollars to other communities and has struggled to compete with other nearby cities to attract major new employers.

If the Lawrence Chamber wants to remain at the forefront of these efforts, it needs to find a new CEO who, as Dever said, “is going to be ready to run right out of the gates.” Dever also noted that person needs to be “somebody who understands the way our community operates both politically and technically.” That suggests that an existing connection to Lawrence might be a more important qualification for the job than extensive chamber of commerce experience.

The city already has deemed it necessary to create its own position to guide Lawrence’s economic development efforts. Without some strong, hopefully stable, new leadership, the chamber is in danger of becoming increasingly marginalized as a component of the city’s economic development team.

We wish Kern well as he heads to his new job in Colorado, and we wish the volunteer leaders in the Lawrence Chamber well as they prepare to hire a new CEO. They, more than anyone, would like to find a new CEO who will be a positive and dynamic leader for the chamber for many years to come. We hope they are successful in their search.

Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

How is the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce any different than First Management,Schwada Inc,the real estate agencies and the Home Builders Assoc?

For that matter the same could be asked of the City/County Planning Commission majority.

The City/County Planning Commission lacks Urban Planners familiar with Urban Economics and Economic Impact Tools and the freedom to use these tools and other very smart applications.

Taxpayers should might want to become aware of local reality. THIS IS ALL ABOUT LOCAL DEVELOPMENT, the cost to our communities and our own personal wealth.

"Free Lunch: How the Local Wealthiest Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)" http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

I say stop funding the Chamber of Commerce. Stop using the Chamber as a legitimate economic growth planner. The Chamber is nothing more than a hang out for the local special interest groups aka real estate industry always getting into our tax dollar wallets.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

Wow! You went more than 12 hours without copy/pasting these same links onto this award-winning website!

TheBigW 3 years, 4 months ago

(quote)Many factors, not the least of which is the sagging state and national economy, have contributed to a period of slow economic growth in Lawrence for the last several years. The city is losing retail dollars to other communities and has struggled to compete with other nearby cities to attract major new employers.(quote)

The City leadership has helped by driving off businesses large and small from this community, you all want act all elitist snobs and jerk people around and then scratch your heads wondering why no one wants to come to your little elitist outhouse and spend their money here and not in other more welcoming cities. Why is it farm aid & Kanrocksas 2011 is being held in Wyandotte county and not here in DG county. Oh that's right, Wyandotte county built an area just for such events. (you wouldn't want any of those types here anyway, they wouldn't be landing here in any of their lear jets to spend "real money")

What did Douglas County do with all of it's brilliant thinkers ideas? 1 Ran off one of the largest music festivals to another state. 2 Pass a 24 hr noise regulation aimed at keeping out just such events. 3 Then bitch and moan all about how & why people don't come here to spend money on stuff. (you can only buy so much "hippy dippy" crap on mass st. year after year and that draw has been fading, same as you can only go to so many bars before the novelty of it wares thin)

(quote)Dever also noted that person needs to be “somebody who understands the way our community operates both politically and technically.” That suggests that an existing connection to Lawrence might be a more important qualification for the job than extensive chamber of commerce experience.(quote)

In other words.... we need another yes man insider from the "good old boys" club who will do what we want and tell them to do and help us with out agenda of "selecting the right kind" of businesses that "we" say are ok around here!

TheBigW 3 years, 4 months ago

Maybe it's time for new and fresh leadership with a vision of the future and build on what we have to offer and stop trying to be something this place is not... then again the same old players have been running the show for years, doing the same bad "leading" and expecting a different out come year after year. 25 years ago this town ranked right up there with Nashville TN & Austin TX, as "music cities". This town was a major stop on most touring acts big & small. The town had a reputation in the music industry for it's "live music scene" a producer of many quality bands. Did the city build on this and exploit it? NO, unlike Telluride Co, Austin TX or Nashville TN, we went the other direction and run off all of that and drove all that into the ground. How many dollars from outside the local community were spent during the Wakarusa festival years here, well we know one thing or sure, it's not being spent here now. nor anytime in the near future, it will all be spent in Wyandotte county at their new concert/speedway/shopping/entertainment area built just for the whole idea of getting people to go there to spend money.

Oh well, I'm off to go watch the panhandlers on Mass st. and get walking done before we have to go to Wyandotte county to shop and catch a show.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

City Hall seems to have forgotten the economy is down the tubes thanks to the corrupt home building industry and the corrupt financial industry. Yet the helter skelter growth mentality still prevails.

"The city is losing retail dollars to other communities and has struggled to compete with other nearby cities to attract major new employers."

This is a college town that only has so many retail dollars to devote to retail. Local movers and shakers live under this illusion that Lawrence can steal away KCMO metro shoppers based on the KU basketball program. Economic Impact Studies probably would have laughed at that thinking. Now Lawrence is the most expensive place to live in Kansas without trout fishing,rocky mountains and ski lifts.

Again this is a college town not a "shop till you drop" community.

If the Lawrence Chamber wants to remain at the forefront of these efforts, it needs to find a new CEO who, as Dever said, “is going to be ready to run right out of the gates.” Dever also noted that person needs to be “somebody who understands the way our community operates both politically and technically.”

That suggests that an existing connection to Lawrence might be a more important qualification for the job than extensive chamber of commerce experience. ( Which is to say we still want somebody to carry on business as usual so the insiders always retain complete control no matter how reckless. )

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

there are too many non-visionaries that have a lot of pull at the chamber. get rid of the old......look at the 'who is who' at the chamber for the past 10 years and then you'll find the problem. visonaries are scoffed at in lawrence. dever is part of the progressive non-business generating group, a tax and spend liberal.....take a look at the library he supported, that we do not need. his opinion means nothing because he isn't a business man. he is an engineer. engineers like accountants, are incapable of being visionary.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

This letter was written in 2009. This concern was being shared with elected officials for at least 12 years ago maybe 15. Why would any retailer want to knowingly locate to a market such as this? So we taxpayers can support the new retailers with our tax tax dollars from a secret sales tax or other tax dollar gimmick? No thank you.

July 24, 2009

To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

McClure is from Lawrence

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/jul/24/retail-space/?letters_to_editor

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

How many times have you copy/pasted this same LTE, merrill? Or, to keep it in small numbers, how many times in July did you post this?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

Basic strategy:

Lawrence should adopt a policy of "cooling off" the pace of development. Note: This is not a moratoriam; it is a consicous effort to redirect growth to existing neighborhoods and districts where it can be beneficial.

Housing: The city should stop approving new subdivisions until the existing supply of surplus homes is eliminated. It should direct housing investment back into older neighborhoods so as to preserve and protect the existing public and private investment there.

Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preseration of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing publid and private investment there.

Kirk McClure – Lawrence,Kansas

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

Is Kirk paying you a fee to post his CV on this award-winning website, merrill?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Was Tom Kern the problem with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce?

I will say no. The turnover in key positions substantiates.

Steamboat Springs is quite a beautiful area.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Cut the tax dollar funding to the Chamber. Live off memberships. BTW stop trying to put the members out business.

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