Economic Development Strategic Plan

The City and its community partners are excited to come together to develop a community-wide economic development strategic plan. This plan seeks bold, fresh, and innovative ideas to not only recover from the impacts of the pandemic, but to create an even better and stronger economy for the community going forward.

On this website, you will find information about the City’s economic development strategic plan. You can learn more about the strategy, its goals, how to get involved and more. We will be updating this webpage with more information as it becomes available, so please check back often—or better yet, sign up below for updates via email.

"The work we do now will determine how fast and how successfully we move our community forward together through and past the challenges of today."
Craig Owens, City Manager

About the Strategy

The purpose of developing an economic development strategic plan is to build on Lawrence’s previous economic successes, identify top economic development opportunities for the next three-to-five years, prepare the community to respond proactively to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately create an action plan for increasing economic growth and prosperity for Lawrence.

After the completion of the strategic planning process there will be a socialization period where we introduce an initial draft of the strategy to the community and get feedback on how we can make the strategy even more effective and representative of the community’s needs.

Get Involved

We are seeking broad community input that will be incorporated throughout this process.

There are a variety of ways you can share your thoughts and ideas.

Phase 1 Report

We recently completed Phase 1 of the strategic planning process, which focused on understanding the City’s current economic condition. The team examined both quantitative and qualitative data to understand the health of the Lawrence economy. Research included a data analysis of more than 20 economic factors benchmarked against 39 other communities as well as stakeholder input gathered through focus groups, interviews and a public survey.

Phase 1 efforts have culminated in an Economic Overview Report that includes observations on holistic elements of Lawrence’s economy, a SWOT analysis, an in-depth data appendix and display of responses to the community survey to-date. Findings from the Phase 1 Economic Overview report will help in further strengthening the community’s existing assets. It will also help the City and EY prioritize specific areas of Lawrence’s economy during the rest of the strategic planning process.

The Economic Overview Report is available to view here (PDF). Two additional data appendices are also available to view: Data Benchmarking and Survey Results.

Below are three key takeaways identified in the report:

  • There is a need to diversify the local tax base. Lawrence’s business community is dominated by educational institutions and retail, which puts a high share of the tax burden on residents. At the same time, residents expect high-quality services and amenities from the City, which often leads to increased taxes and charges for services. This ultimately can make the city less affordable and create challenges sustaining the quality of life expected by residents. Attracting more diverse businesses and private investment can help balance the tax base, make the city more affordable and provide sustainable resources to enhance public services.
  • The community wants economic equity for all. Many residents  express a desire to address ethnic and other disparities in the community and promote economic equity. Addressing economic equity can be a foundation of the economic development strategy and can help prioritize actions to make housing more affordable, improve access to education and other critical resources and create more high-wage career paths for young people with different skill sets. This can help ensure that children raised in Lawrence can build a future locally and that everyone can take part in economic progress.
  • People love and want to sustain the character and history of Lawrence. People love Lawrence because it is unique — with a rich history, arts and culture, homegrown retail and restaurants and overall character that attracts new residents and keeps the community vibrant. It is critical that efforts to diversify and grow the economy also honor Lawrence’s history, embrace its culture and preserve its natural environment.

Phase II Community Survey: Recommended Strategies

Thank you for taking the time to review the City of Lawrence’s recommended Economic Development Strategy. The strategy was developed in partnership with Ernst & Young LPP’s Economic Development Advisory Services team.

We’d like to hear your feedback to ensure the major findings of the strategy align with the community’s economic development needs. Please take this 5-minute survey to let us know your thoughts on the strategy. We appreciate your feedback and your input will help the City refine the strategy moving forward.

For reference, below are the vision and main goals in the strategy:

Economic Development Vision: Lawrence enjoys the most diverse, vibrant and progressive economy in the Midwest, based on a foundation of innovation, sustainability and inclusion and supported by collaborative partnerships that advance the equitable well-being of the community.

  •  Goal 1 – Diverse Economy: We diversify the economy to strengthen the tax base, spur entrepreneurship and offer expanded career pathways.
  • Goal 2 – Vibrant Economy: We create policies, programs, and partnerships that enhance the character and culture of the community.
  • Goal 3 – Progressive Economy: We make intentional and innovative investments to make our economy more sustainable, connected, and inclusive.

Our Consulting Team

Ernst & Young LLP, Economic Development Advisory Services: The mission and passion of Economic Development Advisory Services (EDAS) is to help communities create more prosperous and equitable economies. We work with states, local governments, economic development organizations, chambers and workforce agencies. Our services include strategic planning, competitive assessments, benchmarking, global market insights and innovative custom solutions. EDAS helps communities create and deploy economic development strategies and practical tools to achieve higher-performing economies that generate opportunities for all of their residents.

EDAS Contacts

Tony DeLisi, Director of Strategy
EY Economic Development Advisory Services

Marian Kansas, Associate
EY Economic Development Advisory Services

Local Project Management Team

Britt Crum-Cano
City of Lawrence, Economic Development Administrator 

Diane Stoddard
City of Lawrence, Assistant City Manager

Steve Kelly
Lawrence & Douglas County EDC, VP Economic Development

Ryan Rains
Lawrence & Douglas County EDC, Business Development