A new nonprofit corporation is looking to bolster area employment, production and tax revenue by fostering homegrown bioscience businesses.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority Inc. has its first four board members, who plan to meet in the coming weeks to appoint three more members and start deciding how to spend $400,000 in public money set aside for marketing, personnel and establishment of a startup incubator equipped with high-tech lab space.
The goal: Help promising bioscience technologies thrive in the Lawrence area, to create jobs, boost productivity and generate tax money.
"We're rich in bioscience culture here," said Lavern Squier, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's president and chief executive officer. "We want to take that and mine it, if you will, and commercialize opportunities whenever possible. That's why we want to provide additional lab space in the community: We want to give these fledgling operations, literally, a place to grow."
Board members are Squier; Boog Highberger, Lawrence city commissioner; Bob Johnson, Douglas County Commission chairman; and Jim Roberts, Kansas University's vice provost for research and president of the KU Center for Research Inc.
This year, the board will receive $200,000 from city government and $200,000 from county government to finance the efforts. Elected officials have pledged to continue the financing annually for a total of 10 years.
"This group will have the potential to allocate $4 million of taxpayer money," Highberger said. "That's a big deal.
"If we can pick an innovation coming out of KU and turn that into a local company, it could easily pay back our investment."