Local government may need to create a new job in order to attract people who have retired from one.
A joint city-county task force is recommending local government add a new position to oversee efforts to attract retirees to live in Lawrence and Douglas County.
The Retiree Attraction and Retention Task Force worked on Wednesday to finalize its recommendations, and agreed a new staff position either in city or county government would be critical in achieving the goal of Douglas County becoming a top retirement destination in the Midwest.
“The overriding sense I get is that this effort will take a lot of coordination and communication,” said County Commissioner Jim Flory, who is a co-chair of the task force. “I think the final analysis says it will require some staffing. We need a point person.”
The task force — which is scheduled to deliver its report to city and county commissioners at a joint study session on June 5 — doesn’t identify how much the new position may cost. But the group recommends city and county leaders consider using economic development funding to pay for the position.
Flory said he hopes the position can be included in the 2013 budget that both city and county commissioners will craft this summer.
The report also calls for two other “action steps.” They are:
• Find funding to develop and implement a marketing campaign to advertise Lawrence and Douglas County as a retirement destination. The report recommends funding come from the city, the county, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas University Alumni Association and private sector firms such as real estate agencies, builders and others who would benefit from a surge in retirees. A funding amount wasn’t specified.
• Create an advisory board to study senior issues and develop ways to enhance Lawrence’s reputation as a retirement community.
The task force also made broader recommendations in several areas, including transportation and housing options for seniors.
“Transportation really is the monster in the room,” said John Glassman, a member of the task force. “It is going to be so critical to our efforts.” The report particularly notes the community has a shortage of transportation systems that serve seniors on weekends and evening hours.
On the housing front, the report recommends community leaders work with the alumni and endowment associations at Kansas University to study ways to encourage private developers to build a new “intergenerational living community.”
The community would be a cutting-edge development — perhaps on about 100 acres — that would be designed to attract returning Kansas University alumni who want to live in senior-friendly neighborhood but also one that is open to families of all ages.
“I’ve really been pushing for us to include this idea in the report because I believe it could be one of the bigger economic development elements to come out of this,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter, who is a co-chair of the task force. “It really ties in our biggest resource, KU, to attract retirees.”
The report estimates that nationally 400,000 baby boomers a year will retire and will be seeking a new home. The report estimates such retirees spend on average about $320,000 on a retirement home, and create significant spending power in local economies.