Opinion

Opinion

Business team

Establishing a consortium that strengthens local cooperation on economic development efforts may offer benefits for the community.

April 8, 2012

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The idea of creating an economic development consortium is an intriguing possibility for Lawrence and Douglas County.

City and county governments, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and Kansas University already work together on many major economic development projects. Formalizing the cooperation among those groups almost certainly would help the community present more compelling proposals for new and expanding businesses to build their operations in Lawrence.

Government bodies most often have gotten involved in economic development when companies are seeking various tax incentives, but that function has become less important since Kansas dropped its taxes on business machinery and equipment. Now, the city and county have moved to other ways of encouraging business development. The recent commitment of $1 million from both the city and county to support expansion of a life science and technology incubator building in west Lawrence is a good example of how those governments are helping prime the economic development pump.

That kind of investment on behalf of local taxpayers certainly earns the city and county a place at the economic development table. The opportunities to link business opportunities to research and development at KU makes the university a natural partner in such efforts. The Chamber of Commerce, the traditional center of the city’s economic development effort, also reportedly has floated the idea of adding some new elements to that effort, perhaps including the creation of a chamber-city-county-KU consortium.

The chamber, which is in a significant transition of its own, is smart to consider additional options. As they work to fill two key positions in their organization — the CEO and economic development jobs — chamber leaders need to consider exactly what role the chamber wants to, or should, play in the city’s overall eco devo strategy.

As some leaders envision it, a new consortium not only would facilitate cooperation on economic development but also would have some money to help push those efforts forward. Topeka and other communities have used new sales taxes to fund similar efforts. No one has proposed that for Lawrence — yet — but some funding mechanism may be needed to make the community more competitive.

The good news is that local officials are looking at some new strategies. Doing things the same old way hasn’t been good enough to make Lawrence a strong player in the increasingly competitive economic development game.

Comments

cowboy 3 years ago

I've been in Lawrence for over 25 years. I am hard pressed to think of any quality jobs that have been brought to our city. We have however handed over huge bucks to professional non profits , i.e. C of C , Conv & Visitors , Eco DEvo , Bioscience and a handful of already wealthy business owners.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

We hand over way too much money to the local Chamber of Commerce who I am not so sure have the credentials to be "the chair" of local economic development. The Chamber is a bit too much laissez faire for my taste.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

How can we begin to change the thinking locally? Keep talking it up?

Is it possible to start on a local and state level and eventually get Americans to take back their government?

It is about as difficult. People pick their politicians often based on how much a candidate spends. And voters are somehow convinced that "business people" make the best stewards of our tax dollars.

Where is the hard evidence?

Someday the lower spending candidate must be realized as the "best possible choice" .

Big spending special interests have set the spending bar beyond reality that it simply prevents a better candidate from running. Plus voters consistently vote for the biggest spenders and the big spenders realize this is how to control votes.

JayhawkFan1985 3 years ago

K-10 is a freeway from Lawrence east to I-435. US-59 will be a freeway from Lawrence south to I-35 real soon. Who wants to go to Topeka?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years ago

Sounds more like just a new and improved way to distribute corporate welfare.

somebodynew 3 years ago

IF they do this, let us hope they do NOT follow Topeka/Shawnee Co example. I follow their stories a lot and it appears they get decent results (not sure manufacturing jobs would go over in Larryville), but there are a LOT of questions about the money. Lot's in salaries and no transparency at all. If fact the meetings used to be private until just recently. Since it is a 'private' organization they don't follow under the Open Meetings Act. (Even though they are funded by tax money.) The standard answer to questions is that potential businesses require secrectcy (?) when exploring options.

If this occurs, I hope someone is making sure there is some openness about how the money is used.

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