The Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. was given a second chance recently when a special committee of the Kansas Legislature concurred with the earlier conclusion of an independent consultant that the agency should continue as a stand-alone operation.
Now it’s up to the leaders of the state-funded agency to prove to Kansans they are worthy of the opportunity they’ve been given.
To do that, they must show they have learned from past mistakes and are ready to operate an agency that is more focused and open to the public that supports it. Returning to what had become “business as usual” at KTEC can’t be tolerated either by the agency’s board or the legislators who approve funding for the group.
Some important shifts are obvious at KTEC, including a changing of the leadership guard. In timing that probably wasn’t coincidental with Gov. Mark Parkinson’s decision to sign legislation that continued KTEC funding, KTEC’s longtime president and CEO, Tracy Taylor, submitted his resignation. At about the same time, two state legislators — Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and Sen. Carolyn McGinn R-Sedgwick — were appointed to the KTEC board.
Taylor had become well-known for his arrogance and lack of adequate communications, not only with legislators and the public but even with his own board members. It is hoped this air of secrecy went out the door with Taylor.
It also is hoped that the addition of the state legislators will result in a new level of accountability from KTEC. Holland, for instance, has come a long way since introducing legislation earlier this year that would have abolished KTEC and folded its programs into the Kansas Department of Commerce. The Baldwin City legislator now says KTEC “has a role to play in the future.” We fervently hope that is true, but Holland shouldn’t forget the problems and issues that had him ready to dump the agency only a few months ago.
The reduction in KTEC’s funding from $12 million last year to $7 million this year should have sent an important message to the agency’s board. The $7 million was essential to preserve a number of KTEC projects at state universities and other centers, but the governor and lawmakers weren’t so sure about some of the other ventures on which state funds were being sent.
For the good of the state, we hope KTEC is ready to turn the corner, exhibit strong, professional leadership and target its efforts on projects that can produce the biggest economic bang for Kansas taxpayers’ bucks. However, before state legislators increase the KTEC budget to anything like its former level, they should make sure the agency’s board and hired leaders have made a long-term commitment to be more open and accountable for the state money they spend.