Lawrence City Commission to consider new incentive for startups, changes to agreement with The Chamber

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Startups in Lawrence may soon be able to receive another hand-up to support their business ventures.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will decide whether a portion of the public funding provided to outside economic development groups will be set aside for a new incentive program.

The incentive fund will be maintained by the Biosciences and Technology Business Center, and provide $25,000 annually to fund rent discounts or other small awards to recruit and retain companies for the center, according to the proposed funding agreement for the BTBC. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard said the center has given such awards before, but the program would formalize a city supported fund.

“These types of grants have been used for existing companies and to help new companies be able to move in to the BTBC, either with moving expenses or what would typically be thought of as leasehold improvements, or improvements that are in the building that assist the company with doing what they’re doing,” Stoddard said.

Any incentive awards would need majority approval from a three-person committee, and could include rent discounts or subsidies; furnishings and equipment; lab or office improvements; or workforce development and job training grants. A contribution to the fund is also being sought from the county.

The BTBC, located on the University of Kansas’ West Campus, is an incubator for technology and life-science startups. The center is funded in part by the city, state, county and KU, and the city approved $300,000 of funding for the center as part of its 2017 budget.

The commission will also consider approving a revised funding agreement for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The agreement includes changes to accounting methods that aim to bring more transparency for city funding.

The Chamber will receive $220,000 of support from the city next year, with $20,000 going to support the KU Small Business Development Center. The proposed funding agreement for The Chamber will require city funds be kept separate from general Chamber funds.

Previously, the public funds provided by the city could be pooled with private donations, making it more difficult to specifically account for how city funds were being spent. If approved by the commission, the new agreement would require separate accounting and budgeting for city-provided funds.

In addition, agreements for both groups call for any remaining economic development funds from the city be rolled over from year to year.

Commissioners convene at 5:45 p.m. at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.