Archive for Saturday, May 26, 2007

Simons: Critics may try to stir suspicions about Bioscience Authority

May 26, 2007


It appears there is a serious effort to try to raise suspicion concerning the activities and practices of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, its chairman, Clay Blair, and/or other individuals serving as trustees of the authority.

A recent Kansas City news story carried the headline "Bioscience agency paid chief's firm," with a deck headline stating "Money was for office services and travel expenses before and after a CEO was hired." The story reported on reimbursement payments received by Blair to cover office expenses and travel and asked whether Blair had profited from his role as KBA chairman. This idea was shot down, however, with all KBA executive committee members contacted by the writer being high in their praise of the Johnson County businessman's actions and policies.

Blair was elected chairman of the KBA soon after it was created by the Kansas Legislature in 2002. At that time, there was no office, no staff, no anything, just Blair and other board members. This writer was and is a member of that board.

Blair committed almost two years to representing the KBA throughout the country, calling on leaders of prospective companies that might be interested in moving their facilities to Kansas. His office staff provided all the necessary services, and he devoted the majority of his time, with no compensation, to spreading the word about the funding available from KBA and selling Kansas as the ideal location for those in the bioscience field.

All of his actions were approved by members of the group's executive committee. From the time the KBA was created, the importance of being "squeaky clean" in every activity was stressed time and time again.

It wasn't until fairly recently that an individual was hired to serve as president. Others had been considered for the post; a search firm was employed to scour the country to find the right individual; and, finally, Tom Thornton was hired to fill the office. During these two years, Blair carried the weight of the office and the performance of the KBA on his shoulders.

During this period, the KBA - primarily Blair - helped bring six new companies to Kansas: Prescription Solutions and Quintiles to Overland Park, Hospira to McPherson, American Ingredients and OncImmune to Lenexa and IdentiGen to Lawrence. The KBA has been involved in supporting four additional bioscience efforts and in community development partnerships with several Kansas communities.

Those experienced in the business of attracting new employers, new jobs and increased revenues for the state say the state's bioscience results are excellent - and that Blair's services were a tremendous asset obtained at a bargain price.

Nevertheless, it is clear some critics want to raise suspicions. A few years ago, Blair served as chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents. He was a strong leader who wanted performance measurements for Regents institutions and those leading the schools. In fact, he was an excellent chairman - so good that Gov. Bill Graves would not reappoint him. Perhaps Blair left some scars and those bearing those scars now are trying to get even.

There are former state legislators who do not agree with Blair. Maybe they are trying to tarnish his record.

The city of Olathe recently gave 100 acres of prime real estate to the KBA to bring in bioscience-type industry that would provide good, well-paying jobs to keep young people in Olathe rather than losing them to other parts of the country. With the enthusiastic approval of Olathe officials, the KBA gave 40 of the 100 acres to Kansas State University. Maybe some at Kansas University were upset by having a K-State presence so close to Mount Oread.

If this is the case, it should be remembered that Blair gave the state 40 prime acres in Johnson County for what is now KU's Edwards Campus.

Maybe raw politics, egos or jealousies are involved with someone in Topeka, possibly a defeated office seeker or someone carrying a grudge trying to soil Blair's image and reputation. Maybe it's someone who thinks his or her own efforts to attract business and industry are not getting enough attention.

Rather than spending their time trying to distort Blair's record, they ought to be spending more time trying to do a better job themselves.

It is expected there will be more stories sometime soon questioning Blair's actions or trying to raise suspicions, but the record of the KBA, its success in attracting more than 3,000 new well-paying jobs to Kansas and the likelihood of other companies Blair has recruited eventually coming to Kansas provides an excellent record of Blair's hard and effective efforts on behalf of Kansas.

Unfortunately, this will not stop those who, for whatever reason, want to tarnish Blair and the KBA with suspicion of questionable actions.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this column misstated the identity of the governor who did not re-appoint Clay Blair to the Kansas Board of Regents.


dirkleisure 10 years, 9 months ago

"In fact, he was an excellent chairman - so good that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius would not reappoint him. Perhaps Blair left some scars and those bearing those scars now are trying to get even."

Um, read your own newspaper, sir. Clay Blair was booted from KBOR by Gov. Bill Graves. Of course, you are far too close with Mr. Blair to not know that.

By telling your readers it was Gov. Sebelius who did not reappoint Mr. Blair, you have told a deliberate falsehood. You know the truth, yet you choose to lie.

Your entire column, thus, has zero credibility, and appears to have been written to cover up your and Mr. Blair's wrongdoings as members of Authority.

Miles Nease 10 years, 9 months ago

This is rich. Blair and the KBA get a pass, while you continually question the "secret" dealings involved with the KU-St. Luke's affiliation. Why the double standand, Dolph? No evil Missourians involved in this deal?

Richard Heckler 10 years, 9 months ago

Well instead of spending so much time and money to Bio Science Lawrence should be moving forward in seeking much Green Collar Employment. As of now everybody and their dog are seeking Bio Science which means the KCMO and JOCO will be the winners in this area. Lawrence needs to look beyond and bring in the wave of the future for long term meaningful and well paying employment.

Investigative reporting by KCMO news people is generally on target.

Big box stores are the next dinosaurs on the horizon.

hensley 10 years, 9 months ago

I find it hard to believe that any editorial writer would be as far off base as this. It was Bill Graves who chose not to re-appoint Clay Blair to the Board of Regents and instead appointed Dick Bond, the former President of the Kansas Senate. To lay the blame on Graves' successor is a lie and an example of the worst kind of irresponsible journalism imaginable.

oldgoof 10 years, 9 months ago

Let this editorial be perhaps a more visible example of Mr. Simons very strong biases. . In addition to the appointment screw up, there are other factual errors in the editorial.

susanparker 10 years, 9 months ago

I am surprised to read that Mr. Simon's friend, Clay Blair, contends that he worked alone, using his own office staff and equipment to help with KBA business. I take an exercise class with a woman who told me that she had been working full time from her home for KBA and Clay Blair. She said that she worked for over a year as the Director of Operations. Doesn't sound to me like his staff had to do much. Also, while it's nice that Mr. Blair gave land to KU that is REALLY old news. Who cares?

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