Amy Blakenbiller, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Amy Blankenbiller isn't saying that coal-fired power plants are great. Or that regulating CO2 emissions is necessary. Or that wind power is the answer to the world's problems.
The new president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce simply maintains that the state - by rejecting a company's plans for a new coal-fired energy center in Holcomb - is costing itself plenty when it comes to attracting new businesses, spurring expansions of existing ones and otherwise generating job growth and economic activity at a time when lawmakers and others could use some.
"The negative fallout from that has led many businesses to second-guess expansion, second-guess investment, and are waiting to see : how the state is going to stabilize the regulatory environment before they make ongoing growth decisions," said Blankenbiller, during a visit to Lawrence. "That's a huge concern."
Of particular concern to Blankenbiller, who started work at the chamber in July, is consistency. She said that while the state - citing environmental concerns - rejected Sunflower Electric Corp.'s efforts to build coal-fired electric plants near Holcomb, the state soon granted permission for someone else to build an ethanol plant.
"Consistent regulatory policies" are being sought by the chamber, an organization that plans to lobby legislators on this and other matters.
¢ Taxes. The chamber wants corporate and individual income taxes reduced, along with simplification of the state's system for tax credits. The chamber wants retailers to be reimbursed for costs of complying with the state's system for collecting and sending in sales-tax revenues.
¢ Health care. While the issue slipped to No. 2 on the chamber's survey of 300 business CEOs in the state - taxes topped the list for the first time - the organization seeks to focus on finding incentives for businesses to provide coverage for employees.
¢ Immigration. The chamber plans to oppose legislation that would seek to boost penalties for firms who might unknowingly hire illegal workers.
Blankenbiller comes to the chamber job after working for 20 years in Washington, D.C., where she started in government - including a stint as a congressional liaison at the Environmental Protection Agency for the first President Bush - and went on to become a lobbyist. She grew up in Lawrence, graduated from KU, and is the daughter of Max Lucas and the late Jane Lucas.