In his first couple of months on the job, Lawrence’s new leader of economic development is working on getting better economic data, meeting with existing businesses and reaching out to alumni of the University of Kansas.
In January, Steve Kelly began his position as vice president of economic development with The Chamber and the Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County. Speaking to members of the Joint Economic Development Council at their meeting Thursday, Kelly outlined the economic development efforts that are underway.
•Potential business projects: Kelly said they’ve had a decent level of activity, and have entered responses to nine projects since the beginning of the year. He said that covered a variety of projects, including a call center project that remains active. He said they are currently working on response to a “headquarters operation” that is interested in locating in a university community. He said the operation would bring 55 jobs with good wages ($60,000-plus), and that they have two potential office space sites identified.
•Business retention and expansion: Kelly said he has been getting out and meeting with existing businesses to get a handle on what opportunities they have and what problems they are facing. He said those conversations also involve identifying potential customized training for the Peaslee Technical Training Center. “We’re going to try to be proactive and get out and meet with our businesses and find out what’s going on, what their issues are, both good and bad.”
•University of Kansas alumni survey: Kelly said they are working with KU to develop an insight survey that will be sent out to KU alumni. The survey will ask what alumni think and feel about the Lawrence community as a place to do business. Kelly said they are trying to identify people who may have interest in returning to Lawrence or bringing a business to the community. He said the survey will be sent to 130,000 alumni (a 5-7 percent response rate is projected), and the goal is “to give us a base to market from so that we can do some contact with folks who have some affinity or some connection to Lawrence already.”
•New tracking software: Kelly said they are using new software to better track information regarding business contacts they’ve made and companies they have worked with. “We think that’s going to be a really good tool, because up to now, we haven’t done a really good job of tracking information relative to contacts that we’ve made, relative to companies that we’ve worked with. So that’ll be really valuable going forward.”
•Access to new database: Use of Mergent Intellect database that provides information about companies, both locally and nationally. Kelly said that information will help identify trends and evaluate how a company is performing in this area relative to other parts of the country.