Lawrence leaders are betting the city’s youthful feel might be just the attribute to draw more retirees to the community.
The idea has definite potential, but city and county commissioners should think carefully about whether they want to create a new government job to oversee efforts to attract retirees. Creating a new city/county position to lead retiree-attraction efforts was a major recommendation of a city/county task force studying ways to boost the community’s retiree population.
It is understandable the task force would advocate for such a position. Almost any project will benefit from having an individual responsible for taking ownership of the results. But preliminary talk has suggested the new position ought to be paid for with dollars currently used to fund economic development functions.
The attraction of retirees to the city should be viewed as an economic development initiative, but there already have been concerns expressed by some community leaders that current economic development funding is inadequate. If the city and county start dividing the funding pie into even more pieces, such concerns likely will grow.
It is no secret that some economic development leaders have privately been talking about the need for a new sales tax or other funding mechanism to boost the available dollars for business attraction and retention efforts.
Before commissioners start adding new economic development-oriented positions — such as the retiree attraction position — they ought to have a full discussion about what the future holds for new economic development funding.
The prospect of attracting retirees with financial means to Lawrence is exciting. Such residents could provide a boost to Lawrence’s economy and likely would be delightful neighbors who would add to the community in many other ways, but it is the responsibility of city and county commissioners to determine how this retiree attraction effort fits into Lawrence and Douglas County’s larger economic plan and funding sources.
It is important to get this right because higher taxes aren’t going to be a selling point for retirees thinking about moving to Lawrence, and higher taxes likely will be the result if commissioners choose to add positions first and plan later.