Kansas has fallen behind other Midwestern states in technology and communication, local officials were told.
The director of the K-10 Assn. Inc. made Douglas County and Lawrence city commissioners chuckle when he told them about a study pegging elected officials as the least-educated group about the Internet and other technology.
For diplomacy's sake, Rich Caplan quickly pointed out the study focused on Europe, not the United States, not Kansas and certainly not the northeast corner of Kansas.
Caplan used a joint city-county study session Wednesday as an opportunity to plug the K-10 Corridor Technology Plan, which hopes to make the highway as well-known as Silicon Valley or North Carolina's Research Triangle.
He encouraged the city and county to work closely with Kansas University, Haskell Indian Nations University, the Lawrence school district and area businesses to ensure a telecommunications infrastructure that supports technology such as the Internet.
``In order to move forward, it's essential to have the buy-in and support from elected officials,'' Caplan said. Technology is important, he maintains, because when companies are shopping for a new location, they're no longer looking at just whether sewer and water lines exist.
``They want to know what technology is in place,'' he said.
Kansas can't be compared with California, Caplan concedes, but it has fallen behind other Midwestern states such as Missouri and Iowa, he said. Iowa, for example, has fiber-optic cables linking every county.
Locally, there's no link between the city and county.
Caplan's private non-profit group earlier this year began assessing what technology is in place. By the end of the year, it hopes to come up with strategies for widespread utilization of technology.
``We want to provide people with the best access to state-of-the-art telecommunications,'' Caplan said.
K-10 already has some strengths, the association believes, including KU, the new Sprint campus in Overland Park and fiber optic cables that have been installed throughout most major arterial streets.
``The new Sprint campus is a great opportunity for all of us even though it's in Overland Park,'' Caplan said. ``And having KU is a tremendous asset from a user standpoint.''
But challenges also exist, Caplan said.
``There's been no history of cooperation in the past, and that's why we're here today,'' he said, noting other challenges, such as lack of leadership by the state and lack of competition. ``It's disappointing how we compare to other parts of the country.''
Lawrence Mayor Marty Kennedy said he thought the meeting was important.
``It was very interesting to hear the theory and vision'' on becoming a smart corridor, Kennedy said. ``It will take a lot of planning between the entities.''
Bill Martin, economic development director for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said improving technology ``is important for more reasons than people would think of.'' It's not just a matter of attracting research and development or high-tech companies.
It goes far beyond that, Martin stressed.
``Literally every U.S. business today is extremely interested in telecommunications,'' he said.
-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.