Wichita — Though Kansas boasts of a well-educated work force and limited government regulations, a new study says that the state has failed to convert those business assets into strong growth.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce plans to use the findings of its second-annual competitiveness index to help steer its lobbying efforts in the state Legislature.
The study's authors are Graham Toft, economist and consultant at Thomas P. Miller and Associates, and Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University's School of Business.
Last year, they gave the state an overall grade of C, based on five major areas the competitiveness index ranks. This year, the grade dropped to C-.
"The pace of change is rising," said Lew Ebert, chamber president, "and Kansas has to figure out how to get on. ... The problem is the rest of the world doesn't stop while Kansas catches up."
The study's authors praised the state's schools, saying Kansas has among the nation's best overall educational systems -- from K-12 schools to colleges to work force training.
Good workers and limited regulations aren't being turned into strong economic gains, the study's authors say, because of a lack of money, energy and new ideas necessary to push innovation. The authors say innovation is needed to increase productivity, which drives economic growth and improves pay.
The study also notes that wages in Kansas have grown faster than productivity for 20 years, making Kansas workers expensive for what they produce.
Investments in new technology and innovative business are needed to boost productivity, the study said, though the authors found that the state does not receive enough money from the private sector.
Several factors are blamed for discouraging investment, including the large number of government bodies, such as counties, cities, school districts, townships and water districts.
The study's authors also blame a poor culture for research and development. Ebert said Kansas hadn't figured out how to make its universities into engines for economic development.