Lawrence economic development leaders are actively recruiting an area community college to locate a branch campus in the county to provide more vocational and technical training to workers.
Greg Williams, president and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, told the newly formed Lawrence-Douglas County Joint Economic Development Council that more vocational training opportunities are needed to help attract new employers to the region.
“We are in serious and good discussions with leadership of area community colleges,” Williams said. “They see a real need to bring a satellite campus of a community college to Lawrence. That could be a game changer for this community when it comes to vocational training.”
Lawrence Mayor Bob Schumm said the need for more vocational training opportunities became evident when Lawrence recently was eliminated as a finalist for a manufacturing plant for wind-generating equipment, in part, because the company wanted to be in an area with more vocational training.
“I think technical education is one of the big missing pieces of the puzzle,” Schumm said.
The Joint Economic Development Council held its first meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The new advisory board is appointed by the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The cities of Eudora and Baldwin City also have ex-officio members on the board.
Williams, who chairs the group, told members the purpose of the council was to help develop policies and strategies to make the county more competitive and efficient in economic development.
“Most of our discussions will be at the 50,000-foot level,” Williams said. “We will not ask you to get in the weeds of a specific project.”
Members of the board, which will meet at least quarterly, include:
• Mike Wildgen, a former Lawrence city manager (county appointee)
• Leslie Soden, an East Lawrence Neighborhood Association leader (city appointee)
• Lawrence Mayor Bob Schumm
• Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan
• Jeremy Farmer, Lawrence nonprofit executive (county appointee)
• John Ross, chairman of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce
• Brad Finkeldei, Lawrence attorney (chamber appointee)
• Greg Williams, president and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce
• Jon Josserand, former state and federal lobbyist (city appointee)
• Tim Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs, Kansas University (KU appointee)
• Gregory Thomas, department of design, Kansas University (chamber appointee)
• LaVerne Epp, Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority.