Archive for Saturday, March 5, 2011

KBA: ‘You get what you pay for’

March 5, 2011


Less than five years ago, the Kansas Bioscience Authority was an agency with two employees and a nearly empty office.

Today, the organization responsible for cultivating bioscience growth in Kansas has a payroll of more than $2.3 million, 21 employees and a $10.8 million building it will move into by the end of the year.

Those are numbers that KBA vice chairman Ray Smilor likes.

“I’m not only comfortable, but I’m excited about it,” Smilor said. “Others look at us and ask, ‘My gosh, how did you do it?’”

But some are uncomfortable with the KBA’s growth and spending.

State Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, has asked for a forensic audit of the agency. She’s called the staff’s salaries, bonuses and expense reports “lavish and flagrant” in a time when the rest of the state is cutting costs.

Of the staff’s 21 employees, 12 make more than $100,000. CEO and President Tom Thornton’s base salary is $265,000, another $43,000 goes toward benefits, and in 2010 he received a $100,000 bonus. Another $106,000 worth of bonuses were given out to 12 KBA staff members in 2010.

‘Extremely excessive’

The KBA’s spending on employees has more than doubled over the past few years. At the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year, wages and benefits were listed at $1 million.

The Senate’s Commerce Committee, of which Wagle is chairwoman, has held three hearings on the KBA’s spending. Another is scheduled for Friday.

“I’m excited about the bioscience authority. I’m excited about getting NBAF,” Wagle said. “But the money seems extremely excessive in this environment in Kansas.”

The KBA has until 2018 to spend the $581 million provided through the Economic Growth Act, legislation that was passed in 2004 to bolster biosciences in Kansas.

Since then, the KBA has had its share of successes.

The organization spearheaded the effort to land the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, a $650 million federal lab that is being built in Manhattan. In 2010, Kansas was ranked fifth in the country for biotechnology.

‘Get what you pay for’

The KBA has become a national model that other states such as Missouri and Wisconsin are attempting to copy, Thornton told the committee on Friday.

In defending the agency, KBA board chairman and former Gov. John Carlin said he’d rather spend money and be successful than to do it on the cheap and lose.

“You get what you pay for,” Carlin said, noting that staff had to monitor the outcomes of the companies the KBA invested in, provide advice and help find other funding sources for start-up companies.

“We don’t just distribute money and go on to the next,” Carlin said.

Carlin pointed to six other similar companies where the CEO’s total compensation packages ranged from $332,000 to almost $600,000. However, only two of these companies had half of their employees making more than $100,000, like the KBA does.

But Carlin said the KBA was in the 75th percentile compared with the salaries of similar organizations.

“We have to pay the salaries to attract the talent and to retain the talent to get the job done,” Carlin said on Friday at the Senate hearing.

In summer 2009, the KBA hit a major growth spurt with the creation of Heartland BioVentures, which provides assistance to early-stage bioscience companies.

Today, Heartland BioVentures employs seven people, five of whom make $134,000 or more. The majority of the staff evaluates investment opportunities in start-up bioscience companies. The staff works with companies to help raise start-up money and provides technical and business advice.

Also in 2009, the KBA hired an employee to assist the Kansas University Cancer Center in its effort to gain designation as a National Cancer Institute.

Most recently, the KBA hired a marketing communications specialist to help attract companies to its Kansas Bioscience Park Venture Accelerator. Along with housing the KBA staff, the 38,700-square-foot building is set to open in October and act as an incubator for budding bioscience companies.

In the past few months, the KBA also has hired an accountant to oversee KBA projects and federal awards. Full-time legal counsel has also been added to the staff.

For Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, who runs a small technology company, the salaries don’t look out of line. He said he pays several employees more than $200,000 a year.

“Technology, in general, costs you to deliver,” he said.


Joe Blackford II 7 years, 1 month ago

Some hack by the handle of DevilsAdvocate has been spreading truth about the KBA's Thornton getting up & leaving a showing of Anthrax Wars, rather than respond to DA's statements on that infamous KSU pork barrel, aka Pig in a Poke, NBAF. As soon as I can find a new password, I'll put an end to the wholesale posting of my personal bookmarks.

DA's latest posting on the KBA answers that gnawing ?: who the heck authorized Thornton's $265K salary, $100K bonus & $1,000,000 insurance policy & are Coach Prince's kids the benficiaries? DA's answers included a little ditty, or maybe it's really a nasty little limerick

Kansas Bioscience Authority Board of Directors

Dr./Col (Ret) David Franz, surely you've read my many posts on the USAMRIID commander who turned out to be the Anthrax Mailer's enabler? Former head of KSU's National Agro- Bio-terrorism Center (now headed by AD Bob Krause's wife, Martha Vanier); VP of Midwest Research Institute (runs MRI's USAMRIID lab = DoD revolving door job); sits on DHS committee which picked KSU for the NBAF; sits on NIH's dual use research board (his employee used Army's anthrax to kill 5 in 2001 & WIN AN AWARD in 2003).

Angela Kreps, President of KansasBio (a KTEC waste of tax dollars). Her board includes another KBA board member:

Bill Sanford, of NanoScale, another KSU NISTAC spinoff (NISTAC, where Jon Wefald, Bob Krause & Kent Glasscock took $ off the top of the sale of NutriJoy to CocaCola, as uncovered by the Wefald departure audit).

Kick-Back NISTAC (sung to the tune of This Old Man)

This Thornton, he played 'em, He played KTEC-NISTAC once again; Kick-Back NISTAC, Give a dog a bone, This Thornton came rolling home.

"This discussion was prompted by NISTAC/KSU paying its volunteer chairman, Bob Krause, over $30,000 per year for his volunteer board duties. In response to a question, it was clarified that no other board members in the KTEC system are paid anything other than expenses. Representative Kenny Wilk, who serves on the NISTAC board and approved the payments to Krause, stated that he thought NISTAC was doing a good job and he supported NISTAC's action of paying Krause."

This Bob Krause, he played 'em, He played KTEC-NISTAC once again; Kick-Back NISTAC, Give Coach Prince a bone, This Bob Krause came rolling home.

This Wefald, he played 'em, He played KSU-NISTAC once again; Kick-Back NISTAC, Give the AD a bone, This Wefald came rolling home.*

Lyrics edited by Catsap for the benefit of DA's KU friends: Remember, the Kaw flows in your direction. NBAF, 2018 come *LL or earmarks.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 1 month ago

Da doo doo doo , do daa daa daa..............

Evan Ridenour 7 years, 1 month ago

Bottom-line is that a governmental organization shouldn't be paying 75th percentile for salary. Nor should it be paying for 5-star hotel rooms and limo service. At worst this is fraud, at best it is unethical... regardless someone needs to be held accountable... cough.

Joe Blackford II 7 years, 1 month ago

It's called "bottom-feeding," a Kansas BioScience term if there ever was one.

Kendall Simmons 7 years, 1 month ago

And we certainly don't need to be paying 75th percentile to attract quality people financially to a state that, in the 4th quarter 2010, had the 7th LOWEST cost-of-living in the country! (Unless, of course, we're paying KBA people to actually move to Kansas...which we aren't. That's what THEY'RE supposed to do...convince out-of-state businesses with good paying jobs to move to Kansas.)

This "you get what pay for" nonsense doesn't even take into consideration the fact that the same people spouting it and buying into it are also the people going on about how similar organizations in other states pay more but get less. Uh...if they pay more, shouldn't they be getting more? I mean, if "you get what you pay for" is true.

My final straw was the $1 million life insurance policy being justified as being for Thornton's kids. The guy makes over a quarter of a million dollars a year. He can afford to buy his own frickin' $1 million life insurance policy.

susieparker 7 years, 1 month ago

The KBA provides life insurance benefits to each employee according to their salary. He gets that one plus the one for $1M. That policy was a requirement in his divorce decree. Why is Kansas paying the premiums? Did you know, he gets to take the policy with him with him when he leaves.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 1 month ago

Ray Smilor is an internationally recognized expert on entrepreneurship. Susan Wagle is a career politician.

Whose opinion to trust... Hmmm....

Alceste 7 years, 1 month ago

The notes "For Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, who runs a small technology company, the salaries don’t look out of line. He said he pays several employees more than $200,000 a year.

“Technology, in general, costs you to deliver,” he said."

Right, given Holland's bread and butter, essentially, comes from the same playing field as his cronies over on Kansas Bioscience Authority Blvd., why would he be the least bit critical and lose an opportunity to gain more clients for his own table? Once again, incredible.....

Alceste 7 years, 1 month ago

Both school and corporate officials are given packages by 1. other officers who hope boosting pay of the higher-ups will also cause their pay to increase 2. companies wanting to convey that they have the 'best' CEO [substitute the title you want] since they pay them so much---"our CEO is above average" just like all the students in Lake Woebeong are above average 3. consultants that know if they recommend less than the CEO wants, they won't get the contract next year.

Look what happens when someone is hired. You hear "greatest CEO ever", "he will turn the company around", "he will prove we are the best", etc.. When he fails the next CEO will be brought in with the same phrases but the company/school will say "all our problems were caused by the last CEO---we should never have hired him; this CEO is the best thing since sliced bread", etc..

Of course the company/school will reward the CEO/superintent for any improvement or give a retention bonus if things fail so he will stay and fix the problem [he caused]. Of course the CEO will get all the credit when things go could [the employees did nothing to deserve a bonus] but will escape blame [and get a bonus] when things go bad because it was "all the fault of the employees."

Except in hindsight, the CEO/superintent is the luck of the draw. You don't know for years if they were really sucessful or lucky or if any improvement was from the employees. The CEO will get credit as long as he is there---until he is fired.

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

good analogy.

question: i thought it was ok to earn a big paycheck, just as long as you DON'T have to pay your fair share of taxes on it?

tomatogrower 7 years, 1 month ago

So if this guy was paid less, he wouldn't do his best work? Maybe teachers should start saying this. What happened to "everyone must be willing to sacrifice"? No greed here.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 1 month ago

I might say does high salary always buy the best? I think buying big names in an industry could use some review...

Look at elected officials in Washington D.C. ...... We've been told many times it cost money to get the best and the brightest .....

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