City of Lawrence to create economic development plan to respond to pandemic, address other issues
photo by: Nick Krug
As the COVID-19 pandemic causes financial hardships for both local governments and the general public, the City of Lawrence will soon create its first economic development strategic plan aimed at helping the city respond to the pandemic and improve the economy.
The economic development plan, which will be developed with assistance from an outside consultant, will guide the city’s actions in cooperation with businesses and community partners, with the goal of responding to the negative effects of the pandemic and developing an action plan for increasing economic growth and prosperity, according to a city news release. Economic Development Administrator Britt Crum-Cano told the Journal-World that the city has been thinking of creating such a plan for the past couple of years, but that the pandemic necessitated a plan for now and for the future.
“It brought it up to the forefront as a result of the pandemic,” Crum-Cano said. “And we really need to have something that would better prepare us for the next economic disruption.”
The city describes the plan as “communitywide,” and in addition to creating jobs, it will focus on issues such as increasing affordable housing and decreasing poverty. Crum-Cano said economic development affects everybody, and that the city will be getting feedback from residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations and the University of Kansas, among others. She said that economic development is not just about bringing in new jobs or increasing the city’s tax base, as more funds help the city support more programs that enhance overall quality of life.
“We want to all come together to work on this and make something happen that will be progressive and beneficial for everybody,” Crum-Cano said.
The news release states that, once completed, the plan will serve as a roadmap for the city and its community partners to build upon local economic advantages, address opportunities for improvements, and provide a mechanism to evaluate efforts and redirect policies where needed. The city will seek input from residents to inform the first and final drafts of the plan.
When announcing the plan to the Lawrence City Commission as part of its meeting Tuesday, City Manager Craig Owens told commissioners that all stakeholders are welcome to share their input and that the city will work to include diverse perspectives.
“Like all things, we are working very intentionally toward equity and bringing perspectives in that maybe had not been considered before or considered appropriately before,” Owens said.
The city hired Ernst & Young Economic Development Advisory Services for about $91,600 to help develop the plan, according to Crum-Cano. She said the city has an aggressive timeline for developing the plan, given the situation with the virus and the effect on the economy, and the hope is to have the final draft of the plan completed by the end of the year. She said the plan would then be updated on a routine basis going forward.
Residents will be able to provide input on the plan during more than a dozen Zoom meetings, scheduled between Aug. 12 and Aug. 28, which can be accessed online or by phone. In addition, residents can fill out a survey that can be completed online or on paper at various locations around town, including the Lawrence Public Library, City Hall and the Lawrence Workforce Center. The consultant will use the information from the meetings and surveys to create reports that will be posted online as the plan is developed, according to the news release.
More information about the upcoming communitywide economic development plan, including details about meeting times and other ways to provide input, is available on the plan’s website, lawrenceks.org/ed/strategic-plan.