Archive for Monday, November 21, 2011

Kansas Bioscience Authority waits for results of reviews

November 21, 2011


A Kansas agency that distributes millions of state tax dollars to emerging bioscience companies is promoting its contributions to the economy as it waits for results from a financial audit and a prosecutor’s review of its operations.

The Kansas Bioscience Authority calculates that its investments over the past seven years have created more than 1,300 jobs that on average paid more than $68,700 during the state fiscal year that ended with June. It also says those investments have attracted tens of millions of dollars in additional research funds and private dollars and spurred spending on buildings and equipment.

But earlier this year, Gov. Sam Brownback said publicly he was concerned about the authority after a legislative committee’s hearings focused on questions about the agency’s spending and whether the authority focused enough on jobs in Kansas. One chief executive stepped down in April, and, with Brownback pushing for an external review, the authority initiated an outside audit.

Meanwhile, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said last week that an investigation of the authority’s operations by his office is “still pending.” The authority’s offices are in Olathe, the county’s seat.

Howe said he expects his office to wrap up its investigation within a month, and authority officials expect the audit to be completed after the start of the new year.

“We need to get the audit issue behind us, the Johnson County prosecutor issue behind us,” said former state Rep. Kenny Wilk, of Lansing, a member of both the Bioscience Authority board and the governing board for the state’s higher education system, who was instrumental in the authority’s creation. “I suspect there will be some issues out of that.”

Industry incubator

The state created the authority in 2004 hoping to nurture fledgling companies and make biosciences a major industry in Kansas. The authority is governed by an 11-member board appointed by legislative leaders, the governor and other officials, and the state sets aside tax dollars on the payrolls of existing companies for grants.

From its inception through June, the authority has invested nearly $88 million to create jobs with more than 40 companies, according to a report it released last week. The total investments included almost $8 million during the most recent fiscal year.

The authority said the new jobs have resulted in the companies paying $354 million in wages since 2004, attracting $105 million in additional research dollars and $79 million in private funds. Companies have spent $279 million on buildings and equipment, the report said.

Furthermore, the average pay for the bioscience jobs compares to a statewide average of about $39,000, according to federal statistics.

“We’re creating good, high-paying jobs,” said Sherlyn Manson, the authority’s marketing and communication director.

Brownback’s concerns

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the governor agrees that the Bioscience Authority is an important part of the state’s strategy for creating new jobs.

“But with taxpayer funds at stake, we need the results of the forensic audit to determine if Kansans are getting full value for their dollars,” she said.

The governor publicly expressed concerns during the spring, when the Senate Commerce Committee had hearings to examine its operations and allegations that the authority spent lavishly on salaries, bonuses and entertaining, criticism the authority said was unwarranted. The authority also came under fire for spending nearly $11 million on its Olathe headquarters.

Then-CEO Tom Thornton also faced criticism over a presentation he made to a business group in Wisconsin in October 2010 after a video was posted on YouTube. In the video, Thornton discussed a plan for attracting venture capital firms, saying those companies wouldn’t be required to invest in Kansas businesses.

Thornton, who’d joined the authority in 2006 after working in Illinois, resigned from his Kansas position in mid-April, taking a job in Cleveland, leading efforts by a nonprofit medical clinic there to create commercial products from new drugs and health treatments.

Support remains

Howe declined to discuss the Johnson County district attorney office’s investigation of the authority’s operations, and Manson said authority officials have no information about it. Previously, they’ve presumed it stemmed from allegations aired during the Senate Commerce Committee’s hearings and have expressed no concerns about its outcomes.

Despite the criticism aired before legislators, the disclosure of Howe’s investigation and Brownback’s public statements, the authority and Thornton retained bipartisan support among legislators. Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said the numbers released by the authority last week show it continued to do an excellent job in building a biosciences industry.

“I was very pleased that throughout all the turmoil, they were able to do the job they were assigned to do,” Morris said.


Getaroom 6 years, 7 months ago

Well now, we wouldn't Brownbackward to be out done on creating jobs would we or accepting any leadership he did not personally put in position to do his bidding? What we may count on more of from The Rev. Gov. is more privatization within this state - not jobs for the voters of this state. His continued chumming around with the Koch Brothers and others will assure his place at the right hand of The Gods of Corporate America and we will see an increase in costs skyrocket over time.

vuduchyld 6 years, 7 months ago

Brownback has created a couple of jobs in Kansas...for Floridians.

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 7 months ago

Col/Dr David Franz is a KBA voting board member

and the former commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Ft. Detrick, MD

= the home laboratory of the FBI's Anthrax Mailer, Dr. Bruce Ivins !!!!

Franz is also a VP of MRI Global & runs their USAMRIID lab (famous DoD revolving door job).

MRI has an office at KSU's NISTAC, overlooking the site of the National Bio- & Agro-terrorism Defense Facility. Look for MRI Global to get tax $ to run the NBAF as a government-owned, contractor-operated lab.

Franz' safety & security protocols (no background check on Dr. Ivins & minimal records on checking out infectious diseases) enabled the Anthrax Mailer to Kill 5 Americans in 2001. A suit is pending on paying one victim's wife $50 million.

Ask your legislator who will pay for the est. $4 billion cost (2008 $) to cull cattle herds within 200 miles of the NBAF when there is an accidental, or intentional, release of Hoof & Mouth Disease (NAS estimates a 70% probability over its 50-year lifespan).

Mr. Thornton was a staffer for Former U.S. Representative J. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois).

As Speaker of the House, Rep. Hastert secretly shielded vaccine companies. Thornton worked in promoting an out-of-state lab's anthrax vaccine while he was on KS taxpayers' $.

"In what has been described as a brazen move by Senator Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the lawmakers covertly inserted language [in December 2005] in a fiscal year 2006 Defense spending conference report—the bill, H.R. 2863, was ultimately signed into law as Public Law 109-148—that would grant certain legal immunity to vaccine manufacturers, even in cases of willful misconduct. This language was added quietly and in the dead of night, receiving no debate on the House floor. Despite strong opposition from congressional members, Frist and Hastert used their power in the Senate and House to force the language through. The potential impact of this addition is that American citizens would have little legal recourse in the event of serious injury or death resulting from vaccines designed to combat an avian influenza pandemic. Several news articles have reported that both Frist and Hastert (and others, including Hastert's son) benefited from their actions. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is purported to be the key author of the language additions. This trade association represents virtually all major vaccine manufacturers."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.