A former colleague at the Springfield (Mo.) Area Chamber of Commerce described Greg Williams as someone who “knows how to make things happen. He knows how to put deals together.”
That’s not a bad recommendation for the person who soon will take the reins of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
Local chamber officials announced Wednesday that Williams had been hired as the group’s new president and CEO. His résumé reflects talents and experience in an area the Lawrence chamber has said it wants to emphasize: economic development.
Williams hasn’t been a chamber CEO, but he worked at the Springfield chamber for 15 years, including seven years as the No. 2 executive. During that time, according to his résumé, he helped raise more than $4.5 million in a five-year period to fund economic development efforts and helped make deals that resulted in $350 million in new investments in the Springfield area.
In the last two years, he has added to his economic development experience by serving as director of research parks for the University of Missouri system. That seems like a key plus for Lawrence and Douglas County, which are ramping up their efforts to work with and capitalize on research efforts at Kansas University.
Members of the chamber search committee said early on that they would give special consideration to local CEO candidates who already have an understanding of Lawrence and the various entities and challenges involved in the local economic development process. Some chamber executives have found the community’s debates about economic development projects frustrating, but Cindy Yulich, who chaired the search committee, said Williams was aware of those challenges and “is up for that.” We hope so, because his ability to handle the politics of economic development in Lawrence will be key to his success.
It’s no secret that the Lawrence chamber is hoping to put more emphasis on its economic development efforts. Now that the group has hired an economic development specialist as its chief executive, it may need to reconsider how to fill the current vacancy of vice president for economic development. The focus of that job may change if the new CEO chooses to be the point person for efforts to bring new jobs and business to the community.
Williams obviously is an unknown quantity to Lawrence right now, but he comes with some impressive qualifications that seem to fit what the community needs. We welcome him to Lawrence and wish him well.