Archive for Monday, September 16, 2013

Chamber urges joing forces with school district on technical education center

September 16, 2013


Lawrence Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Greg Williams said tonight that the Chamber plans to build an adult technical training facility, regardless of whether the Lawrence school district decides to take part.

But he said it would be better if the school district joined forces with the Chamber by building its new College and Career Center in the same location at an industrial site near 31st Street and Haskell Avenue.

“We think it makes a whole lot of sense to join forces and put all of our abilities together and do one very significant asset for this community,” Williams said during a public forum at Lawrence High School.

About 50 people turned out for the forum, which was sponsored by the school district to receive public feedback on a proposal to locate the district's new career and technical education center alongside the Chamber's adult education center. Originally, the district planned to build that facility on property the district already owns near Holcom Park.

That was the plan school district officials conveyed to the public when they campaigned last spring for a $92.5 million bond issue, which included $5.7 million for that new facility.

Soon after that bond issue passed April 2, however, the Lawrence school board began having public discussions about possibly joining forces with the Chamber.

“Because the (school) board is very sensitive to making changes about what the public was told when the bond issue was promoted,” Superintendent Rick Doll said.

Williams said the Chamber's separate plan to build an adult training center began about 13 months ago when Lawrence failed to land a prospective new industry.

He said a German manufacturing company was looking at various sites in the United States to build a plant that would create 250 to 300 new jobs, and that Lawrence scored very high on all of the company's criteria except one — the existence of a technical education training center.

“We don't have to continue to lose projects in Lawrence and Douglas County,” Williams said.

Doll noted that the change in plans would present some complications for the district. Among those would be acquiring the land at the alternative site.

“We don't intend to pay for that,” Doll said, noting that the Chamber or some other entity would need to acquire that land and deed it over to the school district.

Most people who attended the forum seemed generally receptive to the idea, although many had questions about how the partnership would work and who would be responsible for teaching classes there.

Both the school district and the Chamber have said they intend to contract with various community colleges and technical schools to provide the educational programming.

The school district is planning to add courses in four specific areas: health sciences, machine technology, computer networking and commercial construction. The Chamber, however, wants to offer customized training that would be specifically tailored to the needs of local employers.

After presentations about the district's and the Chamber's plans, the audience broke up into smaller discussion groups to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both alternatives.

Doll said the school board is likely to make a decision within the next several weeks. Whichever site the board chooses, Doll said, the district plans to break ground on construction in the spring of 2014 so the new facility can open by the fall of 2015.


Carol Bowen 4 years, 7 months ago

Looks like the Chamber is trying to call the shots.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

This was not what the taxpayers voted for number one.

It would be wise to not do any partnerships with this Chamber because of micro managing potentials.

If the Chamber plan requires tax dollars their plan should also be put to the voters. No preferential treatment.

"German manufacturing company was looking at various sites in the United States to build a plant that would create 250 to 300 new jobs, and that Lawrence scored very high on all of the company's criteria except one — the existence of a technical education training center."

There is no evidence this company would come to Lawrence simple as that. That statement is pure speculation and NOT enough foundation to expect taxpayers to support a Chamber project.

Leave the educational money to the elected BOE thank you. Leave the training of construction workers to the construction industry. It's been working for 200 years.

I as a taxpayer do not want the USD 497 to take on additional piece of property. USD 497 owns a piece of property:

Using existing USD 497 property demonstrates fiscal responsibility.

Once again: It would be wise to not do any partnerships with this Chamber because of micro managing potentials. Transparency is not a strong point of this Chamber of Commerce.

no_thanks 4 years, 7 months ago


Wrong again as usual. The City, County, and Chamber received feedback directly on the German Company's decision and the primary reason Lawrence was not selected. The only continued speculation and conjecture comes from you. The Chamber is largely the reason Tech Training is being discussed with greater frequency. The Chamber is actually doing something to make technical training for Adults a reality. What do you do other than coming on here spewing your venom against the Chamber. Take a risk and try to do something that improves the community or makes a difference for the community, then you may have earned the right to bitch.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

The voters said yes to a USD 497 BOE bond issue which did not contain any mention of a Chamber of Commerce project. It seems to be the Chamber should be backing USD 497.

The issue of a vo tech investment has been on the table for years. This USD 497 BOE is finally doing something in that regard.

While inconvenient JCCC is available for training adults and has been there for several years. Of course it will be nice for the USD 497 BOE to get moving on a Vo-Tech Campus in our backyard. Education is a worthwhile industry that stays in Lawrence and does not leave once the tax dollar welfare is no longer available.

31st and Haskell is going to be a disaster once the relocating of Haskell gets underway. A new campus does not need this headache.

How much was that German firm going to want from the taxpayers? It is inconceivable to me why taxpayers are expected to pay for new employers. This perspective is a tax dollar money hole.

no_thanks 4 years, 7 months ago

The issue of technical training has been on the table, and left there, for years. The Chamber's efforts moved it from the table to a very rel possibility in partnership with te school district. There are some who can sit around and complain about what is needed in the community, and there are others who take action to proue results. I think we all know where you sit. Kudos to the Chamber and the school district for working together on their willingness to consider combining forces in creating a grander tech school.

no_thanks 4 years, 7 months ago

And unless you're happy with our median income being so low $33,000, you should change your tune to support adult technical training and the City and County doing what it takes to make us more attractive to prospective employers. You've won the past decade but times they are a changing.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

"Dickie is the only person on the face of the planet that would not like this arrangement. "


There are plenty of taxpayers who do not accept the notion of giving millions of tax dollars away to buy an employer. These tax tax dollar welfare handouts increase the cost of jobs dramatically.

Why do adults need a special technical training facility? I attended one in Kansas that was not necessarily dedicated to only public school students. Obviously it was a mix.

This USD 497 BOE has been on board with a Vo-Tech concept since day one.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

What does the Chamber want that is not being provided? Where are the details? What exactly is on the Chamber table?

I'm all for a full blown Vo-Tech campus and have been for several years. It's no secret. But I want it on USD 497 property with zero micro management from outside sources.

Build a full blown campus and do it right the first time. This piece of real estate makes the grade.

More students would be good for business and have been good for Lawrence,Kansas. Education is a solid industry.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 7 months ago

I have no problem with the Chamber being involved. It makes sense that they should be. I voted for a school bond issue specifically for VoTech education. I was unaware of the lost opportunity from Germany. The Chamber should not be leading the school board decisions. That was not part of the bond issue I voted for. I also have been reading that we are going to contract with community colleges. I don't remember that piece of information when i was voting either?

I don't think the Chamber and the schools have done a good job of bringing us up to speed. I'd like to assume that a lot of thought and planning were done by both entities. The chamber should not lead but collaborate and support USD 497's VoTech program. If we really want to talk about Germany, their industries create work training programs on site with paths to full time employment. I want to hear more about the programs. I think that the Chamber and the schools each doing their own thing is counterproductive and will weaken their efforts.

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