The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce was founded on December 12, 1878 “for the purpose of fostering, promoting and improving the trade, commerce, manufacturing, industrial, railroad, and general interests of the city”. Early promotional efforts included hosting the Western National Fair and National Temperance Camp Meeting. In 1879, the Temperance Camp Meeting attracted 100,000 people to the twenty-five year old city with a population of 15,000 residents.
Over the years, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and its members have been leaders in building the economy of Lawrence and improving its quality of life. The result is a beautiful city of 80,000 residents that boasts a growing economy and outstanding educational and cultural amenities.
Lawrence’s transition from a small community that was largely dependent on agriculture and the University of Kansas, to the growing mid-sized city of today began after WWII. During the late 40’s and the early 50’s, the GI bill brought a swarm of new students to the KU campus and the Chamber initiated a plan to diversify the economy by recruiting new industry. Over the next 40 years, the Chamber recruited thousands of new jobs and the enrollment at the University of Kansas rose to 25,000 students. Nearly every major business in Lawrence was recruited to the community by the Chamber after WWII. Once they settled in Lawrence, the quality of the labor force helped companies grow and prosper. Then the Chamber helped them to expand again.
The same scenario holds true for many of the amenities that Lawrence residents enjoy. The Chamber played a leadership role in the development of Lone Star Lake, Clinton Lake, the Douglas County Fairgrounds, the Kansas Turnpike and the parking lots and the streetscape in Downtown Lawrence. The Chamber was also on the leading edge when it came to building new streets, schools, parks and other public services. The better the community became as a place to visit, the more people began considering Lawrence as a place to move with their family…even if they were working in Topeka or Kansas City.
The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is proud of the role it has played in building our community. We never tire of visitors and newcomers complementing us on the beauty and economic vitality of our downtown business district. Nor do we pass up an opportunity to talk about the new business and residential areas that encircle the core of our city.
The Chamber measures every project it is involved with against two standards: economic vitality and quality of life. Our goal, since 1878, has been to build a community that provides our residents and businesses with diverse economic opportunities and a wonderful place to live. Please pay us a visit and judge the results for yourself.