Last month, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce led about 75 local residents on a three-day trip to Lawrence, Kansas, as part of the Chamber’s biennial Inter-City Visit. Every two years, attendees head to a city that’s similar to Chapel Hill, meet with local leaders, and return with new insights about how other communities handle (or fail to handle) many of the same problems and challenges and goals we face in Orange County.

Lawrence is Kansas’ sixth-largest city, with a population of about 80,000; it’s the home of the University of Kansas. Its version of Franklin Street is Massachusetts Street (Mass Street), a vibrant five-block downtown with a wide variety of thriving local businesses. The city also boasts a brand-new sports complex three times the size of Hillsborough’s SportsPlex, a huge on-campus start-up incubator/accelerator called the Bioscience and Technology Business Center, and a vocational-training hub called Peaslee Tech that draws students from several area community colleges as well as local high schools. Those facilities all grew out of a strong sense of collaboration between town, county, and university leaders as well as Lawrence’s business community.

What did our cohort of attendees learn from Lawrence? WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with nine of them on the way home.

Allen Buansi, Chapel Hill Town Council member:


Brenda Stephens (Orange County School Board), Penny Gluck (Durham Tech), and Christine Kelly-Kleese (Durham Tech):


Laurie Paolicelli, Orange County Visitors Bureau:


Matt Hughes, Hillsborough town commissioner:


Michael Parker, Chapel Hill Town Council member:


Robert Dowling (Community Home Trust) and Karin DeMarco (AICPA):


You can read Aaron’s own reflections on Lawrence below:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3