Topeka Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ken Canfield outlined his strategy Monday for improving the Kansas economy, relying on increased venture capital and use of research and development at state universities.
Canfield, speaking during a news conference at the Statehouse, said his administration would encourage economic growth through a four-point approach of equity, education, entrepreneurship and environment. The plan includes creating a $1 billion equity fund of private and public bond money to invest in new business.
"It is critical that we capture the hearts and the minds of all Kansans. It's going to take a big vision," Canfield said.
Canfield is among seven Republicans seeking the nomination to challenge first-term Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in the November general election. Republican activists generally view Sen. Jim Barnett, Canfield and Robin Jennison as the most serious contenders.
Robert Sherwood, a Johnson County businessman and venture capitalist, was picked by Canfield to lead his economic team. Sherwood said the state has untapped potential in its universities, with hundred of millions of dollars spent annually on research and development. He proposes tapping those projects and getting them into the private sector quickly to spur business growth.
Another component would be to allow college professors to take time off from the classroom to work with businesses to develop new products and services, then return to campuses to share the experience with students.
Barnett's campaign, however, said increasing state debt to finance new initiatives would hurt future generations of Kansans who would have to repay the money.
"Essentially, we would be betting our grandchildren's future indebtedness on the ability of a small group of 'experts' to select the right companies in which to invest," Barnett said in a written statement.
He proposes stimulating the economy through lower taxes and said many proposals Canfield extorts are already used by the state in some form.
Jennison did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
Other Republican hopefuls are attorneys Timothy Pickell and Dennis Hawver, former state Rep. Rex Crowell and Richard Rodewald, a retired Eudora automotive engineer.
Canfield also announced that former U.S. Rep. Dick Nichols had endorsed his campaign. Nichols, a McPherson banker, served from 1991-1993 when Kansas had five congressional seats. His district was absorbed by the remaining four when new boundaries were drawn in 1992.