In September, nearly 100 local leaders will visit Lawrence, Kansas as part of the 2018 Inter-City Visit, I’m one of them, and I am excited.
If you’ve never been, this is an opportunity to visit a city that will remind you a lot of Chapel Hill.
From basketball to literature to the spirit of the town itself, Lawrence feels like a close cousin, and a cousin always has something to share. There is truly something here of interest for everybody.
Here are some of the things I am really looking forward to, and why:
I love Tar Heel basketball. But without Lawrence, Kansas, there would be no Dean Smith. James Naismith invented the sport in Lawrence, taught it to Phog Allen, Dean Smith’s coach when Dean played at Kansas. UNC basketball is a direct descendent of what basketball was meant to be: they invented it; we perfected it. Lawrence is hallowed ground for the basketball lover. And as you probably know, our own Roy Williams coached there for fifteen years or so. Let’s visit and report back. Wilt Chamberlain left Lawrence in 1958 to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and then the NBA until he retired. He returned to Lawrence 1998 when his jersey was retired and hung in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse. The history there!
Like Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, Lawrence can claim its share of literary lights. Langston Hughes, the great American poet who inspired the Harlem Renaissance, spent most of his childhood there. Visiting the place he grew up will give me a sense of the historical impact one man’s words can make. Hughes, by the way, was tri-racial. His ancestry included Powhatan, Cherokee, and possibly Lumbee Indian ancestors, as well as African and European. He is one of the great American writers.
In faraway Lawrence you’ll discover a spirit similar to that of Chapel Hill. It’ll feel a little like a midwestern home. Like our town, Lawrence is known as one of the best places in America to work, to retire, and also as one of its best college towns. In 2017, Lawrence received a score of 74 out of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s municipal equality index, which measures how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are for LGBTQ people. Lawrence received a perfect score in the nondiscrimination laws category, which evaluates whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited.
#4 Future Planners.
In Lawrence, all eyes are on the future and Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Larry McElwain, recently shared his vision for Lawrence as he prepares for retirement.
Many of McElwain’s points resonate with Orange County objectives:
- “I hope to see Lawrence and the University of Kansas continue to grow and to grow together in their efforts to do economic development for the people of the state and region. This will require the completion of a comprehensive ED plan.
- I hope that KU will continue to grow in student enrollment and that the Kansas legislature will fund it adequately, to start by restoring money cut from their allocation over the past 10 years.
- I want to see the addition of some new sectors of our economy that will utilize better the students that graduate each year from KU.
- I hope to see the continued development of the downtown and continue to make it a place where more people want to live, work, and play.
- I hope to see the completion of Phase III of the Bioscience Business and Technology Center and the location of a major science or tech company there.
- I hope that the downtown planning that is ready to begin will find ways to connect the city to the Kansas River, that the Lawrence Loop will be completed. This will serve as a way to connect more people to all sectors of the community. The river has tremendous potential that gets overlooked and taken for granted.
- I would like to see a combined effort by community groups to build an amphitheater near the downtown to bring people together for concerts and performances. I see this being in Burcham Park, near the river.
- I hope to see the continued growth and development of Peaslee Tech and the College and Career Center as viable choices for education of all ages.”
Sounds like a great time to visit Lawrence, compare lists, and learn from each other. Won’t you join us? – Register now