Panel addresses Lawrence community and economic development at chamber of commerce breakfast

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At the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s Jan. 11 Breakfast Connections event, a panel including City of Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier, Lawrence Common Council President Lisa Chavis, Executive Director of the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority Aletha Dunston and Executive Director of the Lawrence Community Development Corporation Chris Barnett addressed Lawrence’s strengths and challenges in attracting residents and economic development opportunities.

At the beginning of the panel, speakers touched on the city’s assets. Collier listed diversity as one of Lawrence’s best assets.

“I think one of greatest assets the City of Lawrence has is the amazing amount of diversity we have,” he said. “It’s very had to find a city with the kind of diversity Lawrence has. What I can say is one of the most heartening things for me as a mayor, when we put on city events, is to see how diverse the population is who participate in those events.”

Chavis credited Lawrence’s success to the city continuing to invest in itself, but that one of the city’s needs was attracting more small- to medium-sized businesses.

“I think by having better jobs, we’ll attract more people to live here, but I also don’t want to downplay the significance of small to medium businesses, because I think we could have more of those here in the city,” she said.

When it came to challenges the city faces, Barnett said the city needs to continue to put effort into reinvesting in older areas.

“One of the things the CDC focuses on a little bit more is on the housing stock in the community. We have a wide diversity of housing types, and you can find just about anything in Lawrence,” Barnett said. “The thing is, is that the southwest corner of city, to put it bluntly, is aging a little bit. The city is reinvesting in infrastructure in the area, and we as an organization are trying to get ahead of the natural decline in housing stock that happens.”

Dunston said the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority is working to reinvesting in infrastructure and increasing historical opportunities in Lawrence.

“As a reuse authority, we’ve spent the past 20 years-plus really investing in infrastructure so those companies (coming to Lawrence) can locate here,” Dunston said. “Then, we are beefing up any historic opportunities we can to make this a unique place. Getting that story out there that we have an opportunity for a young professional to come and not only enjoy themselves but be proud to tell the story of where they’re living and working.”

For more on future Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce event, or for information on becoming a member, visit greaterlawrencechamber.org.

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