Archive for Saturday, March 22, 2008

Report, comments cast doubt on state’s economic efforts

March 22, 2008


Several weeks ago, the Kansas Legislature's Division of Post-Audit released a report focusing on the estimated $1.5 billion the state has spent on, or appropriated for, economic development programs.

This report, part one of a two-part analysis, was designed to answer the following questions: "How much state, federal and local government money has been spent on economic development programs during the past five years, and what have past audits and recent literature shown about the effectiveness of economic development programs?"

The second report, to be made public later this year, is supposed to answer the question: "What results can be seen from state spending for economic development in Kansas?"

The first report presents detailed information about where economic development money has been spent and what impact these funds have had on counties throughout the state.

As might be expected, the state's three most urban counties - Wyandotte, Sedgwick and Johnson - received almost 58 percent of the state's total economic development assistance.

On the flip side, 31 counties, 27 of which are located west of Wichita, account for just over 1 percent of the total economic development assistance.

As the report points out, "Overall, the map (showing distribution of state funds) shows that economic development funds follow population. In fact, 87 percent of the variation in costs is attributable to differences in county population. In other words, those counties with higher populations have generated and received more economic development moneys."

Those concerned about Kansas' economic welfare, the future of the state, job opportunities, the availability of water and the importance of trying to attract new business, industry, jobs and tax revenues in western Kansas are well aware of the state's challenges and, in many cases, the outflow of many of the state's brightest young men and women, who seek better job opportunities in other parts of the country.

Justified or not, right or wrong, those living in western Kansas do not believe they are getting the attention and help they deserve. There are many who question the commitment and interest of current Kansas University leaders in western Kansas, pointing out that just as economic money flows to the most popular counties, so does KU's current attention and interest, i.e., to Johnson County and Kansas City, Mo.

Again, some of this thinking may be justified and some may be the result of years of frustration and seeing young people leaving that part of the state. On the other hand, it appears there is justification for anger - major anger - for many in western Kansas based on a statement made at a March 6 meeting of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. staff and those referred to as members of the "KTEC network" (those receiving funds from KTEC).

Someone at the meeting asked a question about KTEC's investment and economic development in western Kansas.

Tracy Taylor, KTEC president and chief executive officer, reportedly answered the question by saying:

"There are approximately 300,000 people in western Kansas. As Kevin Carr says, 'We ought to give each of the 300,000 people living in western Kansas $5,000 to rent a U-Haul and move east.'"

According to knowledgeable sources, Carr, chief operating officer of KTEC, immediately "reacted" and "clarified" that he did not make the comment Taylor attributed to him. There wasn't a single individual in the room at that time who isn't an "insider" in KTEC and the KTEC network, and it is reported they were shocked at Taylor's statement.

No one denies this statement was made, but one attendee said he thought some may have "missed the point and context of the quote." To this writer the "point" and "context" are pretty clear and they likely will seem very clear to those living in western Kansas.

According to the Legislative Post-Audit report, KTEC has received $70 million in the 2003-07 fiscal years for economic development purposes, with $7.1 million coming from federal funds, $58.6 million from the state and $3.7 million from "other" sources.

Based on Taylor's reported response, it is easy to understand why those living in a general area west of Wichita would question Taylor's level of effort to help those living in western Kansas and encourage business and industry to locate in this hard-hit part of the state.

As far as the state's effort to attract industry and business, Taylor's dumb, politically insensitive and explosive remarks about western Kansas are likely to cause many state legislators, particularly those from western Kansas, to question the effectiveness of the dollars they have appropriated to KTEC - and the political astuteness of Taylor.

The first part of the Post-Audit report has provided many interesting, sometimes shocking, facts about the state's effort to stimulate and enhance Kansas' image as a great place for new industry and new business.

Competition is becoming more intense and more professional, and Kansas cannot afford to coast and not put its best foot forward.


LogicMan 9 years, 11 months ago

"Kansas cannot afford to coast and not put its best foot forward."

Yes, but, my guess would be that sales tax revenues are going to be down somewhat. If so, for the short term, we're looking at cuts to, rather than expansion of programs.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 11 months ago

The political rhetoric that is the current state of the logjam known as Kansas politics tends to corrupt every other important dialogue about investment and resources on our state. The Neufeld cultists use this East-West conflict for political ends but the people get short changed.

Having grown up in a small Kansas town in South Central Kansas and having spent a lot of time in Western Kansas, it is no mystery at all why young people want to "get out of Dodge". In fact, to this day I always think to myself when in a bad situation, "Time to get out of Dodge."

Having traveled a bit and seen a few things in my life, my thoughts are that the people themselves need to cut off their association with politics as usual and take back control of their communities. Kansans are smart and known for their ability to survive and prosper and my thinking is that people out West can thrive on their own if allowed the chance to do so.

We need to stop the manipulative political practices Kansas politics.

nobody1793 9 years, 11 months ago

KTEC's mission (and KBA) is to fund high-tech ventures. I can think of very few advantages for starting a high-tech company in a remote rural location: you need distribution channels (both supplies and products) infrastructure, highly trained employees, and often incubator-type services. Outside of biofuels, which everyone rails against anyway, what technology business plan has a greater chance for success by locating in Russell vs Olathe? (For that matter, why is K-State building a research campus in Olethe, not in Liberal? huh? Exactly.)

In order to make a fair comparison, what about Michigan's well advertised economic development programs. How much of that has been focused on Detroit/Ann Arbor verses the upper peninsula?

ASBESTOS 9 years, 11 months ago

Nobody1793 stated:

"KTEC's mission (and KBA) is to fund high-tech ventures. I can think of very few advantages for starting a high-tech company in a remote rural location..."

This is MORE than just about the KTEC spending. The LPA was looking at ALL the money and it does disporportianately leave out the rural areas where LOTS of people want to live, but bad state economic leadership and the plague of illegal immigration lowers wages and makes these places crapholes to live without escape or opportunity. IT is exacely like the innercity areas that are devoid of economic development.

FYI shortsided one this LPA auditred all of these: Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, Kansas, Inc., Kansas Bioscience Authority, and the Kansas Small Business Development Center.

Here is something I have been harping on for years: GET THE STATE OUT OF THE BUSINESS SECTOR, expecially the Safety and environmental areas. This state is WAY behind in environmental and safety issues.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.