Lawrence Memorial Hospital agrees to give $15,000 a year to chamber’s economic development fundraising campaign

Consider it a $15,000 prescription for a healthier Lawrence economy.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously agreed to donate $15,000 a year for the next three years to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s economic development capital campaign.

“I think the development of new rooftops and the development of jobs to keep people at home is consistent with our mission,” Gene Meyer, president and CEO of the hospital, told board members. “Hopefully it will result in an increased population that we can serve.”

Chamber leaders originally had asked for a contribution of $25,000 a year for three years. But a subcommittee of the hospital’s board said further research indicated a $15,000 per year investment was more consistent with what organizations of LMH’s size give to such campaigns.

The chamber hopes to raise between $275,000 to $325,000 per year as part of the three-year capital campaign. Board members were presented information by the chamber that shows that even at that level Lawrence’s private sector support for economic development is behind several peer communities.

A report prepared for the chamber found the economic development group for the university community of Bloomington, Ind., has $900,000 a year in private economic development support. Others in the report included Boulder, Colo., $825,000; Iowa City, $775,000; Lee’s Summit, Mo.; $500,000; and Norman, Okla., $450,000.

Board members were told the chamber plans to spend about $125,000 to $150,000 a year of private money in increased business retention and recruitment activities, and about $65,000 to $90,000 per year on a beefed up regional and national marketing campaign that touts Lawrence and Douglas County.

In other LMH news:

• The hospital has hired a pair of consultants to help it evaluate what type of wellness center it could operate in Lawrence. City officials have asked LMH to consider operating a wellness center in the city’s proposed northwest Lawrence recreation center. But hospital leaders have struggled to come up with a plan of what feasibly could be included in a wellness center.

Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture and Lawrence-based Greenplay LLC will prepare a report by July that includes a concept for a wellness center and estimated financial performance for the center.

“We’ve said we’re not going to do a wellness center unless we can pay for it, and this report should tell us whether we can pay for it,” said Allen Belot, chairman of the hospital’s board.

• The hospital has hired a new doctor to serve in its Baldwin City office. Board members were told Dr. Bonnie Cramer has agreed to a contract. Cramer currently serves as a family physician at the Family Care Center and the Cloud County Health Center in Concordia.

• The hospital received a positive report as part of its annual financial audit conducted by BKD, LLP. The audit found LMH is exceeding the standards of peer hospitals in the categories of operating margin; amount of cash on hand; length of patient stays; and generally has less debt than other hospitals.

• Board members were told the first quarter of 2013 has been a more challenging year financially for LMH. The not-for-profit hospital had $1.8 million more in revenue than expenses for the first quarter, but that amount was about 19 percent below budget. The hospital had net operating revenue of $48.3 million for the quarter, which was about 5.5 percent below budget.