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Eco-devo leaders hope to capitalize on KU-Duke game


I'm sure Kansas University basketball standout Andrew Wiggins reads this column, so I wanted to make sure I got this bit of information in before tomorrow's tilt with Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Wiggie, as you know from talking with the local media, KU fans are doing a great job of keeping their expectations for you within reason. (Don't worry about scoring 45 points a game. Forty a game with 10 boards and 10 assists is perfectly adequate.) So, given that, I was hoping that during this next game, you could do the community a solid. (Note to nonAndrew Wiggins readers: "Solid" is hip talk for a "good deed." It helps to be hip when you are talking to athletes, so I think that's why this task fell to me.)

Anyway, we were hoping that during this next ballgame, you could be our community's top economic development spokesman. Let me explain: The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce will have a suite at the United Center in Chicago Tuesday where it will play host to a dozen or more site selection executives who are based in the Chicago area.

For those of you unfamiliar with the role of site selectors, let me just put it this way: Andrew Wiggins gets kissed up to a lot right now, but he really should aspire to be a site selector. These are the individuals who make recommendations to big corporations on where they should locate their new warehouse or manufacturing facility or research hub. A positive recommendation from a site selector can mean big dollars and jobs for a community.

So, Lawrence officials want to develop a better relationship with site selectors, and the leaders at the chamber figured, what better icebreaker than KU basketball?

"It is really a great way for us to have four or five hours of time with a dozen or more site selectors from the Chicago area," Greg Williams, president and CEO of the chamber told me.

No, Lawrence officials aren't going to come back with any signed contracts from the event, but it's a chance to get Lawrence's name added to some lists, and for personal relationships to be developed.

"We need to make more efforts to get Lawrence back on the national radar screen," Williams told me. "In the past, there has been very limited national business development efforts. That has really just been based on resources."

Williams said he has made it a goal to increase the amount of money for such outreach efforts in 2014 by four times past levels. He declined to specify what that amount will be, but said in the next several years, the amount will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

No word on how much this event is costing the chamber. Public dollars aren't being spent, so disclosure is not required. Williams said the chamber is using funding from the nonprofit Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County, and other private partners. The Economic Development Corporation is the private group that manages the East Hills Business Park and has accumulated some financial resources through that management.

So, A.W., I'm thinking you could maybe help us out here. Say after you slam one down on an alley-oop, you can find one of the TV cameras on the baseline and maybe do a little impromptu close-up. Perhaps you could say something like: Lawrence, Kansas, easy access to Interstate 35 and Interstate 70 with a highly educated workforce, charming downtown, and outstanding quality of life. Or, you know, something like that.

If it helps you out, we could live with a stat line of 38 points, 12 boards, 12 assists. Of course, just for this one game. After that we would need you to step it back up, or land us Google's headquarters or something similar.

In other news and notes around town:

• While we're talking about economic development matters, there's also word of a formal effort to cooperate with a couple of communities that we sometimes have good-natured competition with: Manhattan and Topeka.

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is part of a revamped partnership to promote the corridor between Lawrence and Manhattan as a hotbed of research activity. The chambers of the three communities have formed the Kansas Research Nexus, and have a Web site now devoted to the effort. It carries the tag line of: Great minds. Combined.

The Web site touts the research being done in areas such animal health, cancer treatment, and biomass and clean technology.

Of course, other communities have seen good results in combining the resources of research institutions. The Research Triangle area of Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University is probably the best example.

Unfortunately, KU, K-State and Washburn aren't arranged in any neat geometrical shape like a triangle. Our communities are arranged more like a straight line drawn by a nervous kindergartner. I suppose that is why they used the word "nexus." That may work, or we can ask Wiggins to come up with a brand for us too.

He can do that and still average 37-13-13.

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  • Comments

    Mark Rainey 4 years, 7 months ago

    So, our city tax dollars are paying for a first class trip for chamber officers and family to go to this game in style? City dollars cannot go towards a liquor bill, but they can go to the chamber, where they are not subject to "disclosure"? Anyone know more about this practice?

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