Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2003

Conference to preach entrepreneurism, bio-technology on K-10 corridor

June 5, 2003

Last year at this time, Rob Boyer was campaigning for the Kansas House 38th District seat, preaching the value of entrepreneurism and the potential of the Kansas Highway 10 corridor.

Boyer is still preaching the same things, and next month he will share the message as one of the hosts of a conference meant to inform civic leaders along the K-10 corridor of high-tech and life science possibilities.

Boyer said the conference would be from 2 to 5 p.m. July 1 at Lenexa Tech Center, 1180 Lackman Road.

"We're going to get all the interested parties along the corridor together to help them understand the role of entrepreneurism in their communities," the Olathe Republican said. "We will identify how it is entrepreneurs who create good, stable job growth in the state.

"The second part will help the communities understand the bio-life initiative and making sure the communities along the corridor find a home for those emerging industries."

Tentatively scheduled to speak at the conference will be a man familiar with entrepreneurism and the bio-life initiative, Dr. Jay Kayne, formerly with the Kaufman Foundation and now the executive director of Kayne and Associates.

Helping Boyer organize the conference are two men involved in helping entrepreneurs, Tracy Taylor of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation and David Franklin of KCCatalyst.

Much of their work, Taylor and Franklin said, built on the momentum started with the opening of the $200 million Stowers Institute for Medical Research two years ago and the presence of academic research institutions to create a life-science sector in the Kansas City area.

This nucleus of access to research, technical support and expertise can serve to attract outside businesses in the life sciences and provide an environment that nurtures start-up business, Taylor said.

Taylor said the hope was to create a "cluster" of life science companies that would rival those existing near Boston, Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colo., and Rockville, Md.

"It's an important and growing industry," Taylor said. "With the Stowers, there are a lot of opportunities to turn business over time. In life sciences, it takes a lot to time."

Research is the key, Franklin and Taylor said. The availability of research labs was an important factor in recruiting existing industries because it provided the evidence a core of trained expertise was available, Taylor said. Research institutions also provided the environment that nurtured the growth of a cluster from within, Franklin said.

"We would certainly be a big advocate for anything that offered new research opportunities, because research is the source of new ideas that beget new companies," he said.

Boyer said the proximity to Kansas University could be an added benefit to Eudora because of the political environment in Lawrence.

"There is such a shortage for economic development in Lawrence because of the slow-growth feelings, but there is a demand to be near the University of Kansas," he said. "There is going to be overflow to Eudora. I think there will be opportunities for Eudora and De Soto from the overflow."

Both KTEC and KCCatalysts offer is help taking bright ideas born in research to the market place. As president of KTEC, Taylor's focus is limited to Kansas. His lottery-funded agency supports research in basic and applied sciences at state universities, helps finance business incubator centers in the state -- including those on the K-10 corridor in Lenexa and Lawrence -- that provide assistance and support to entrepreneurs, and directly assists high-tech startup ventures through its investment program.

In the case of life sciences startups, Taylor said, KTEC could provide a small amount of money to "proof a concept," he said. Eudora's was one company that benefited from KTEC money.

KCCatalyst. is a non-profit organization that attempted to identify and help new life science and technology-based businesses in the greater Kansas City bi-state region, Franklin said.

The agency's Web site has an invitation for those planning to start a new technology or life sciences business to apply for KCCatalyst's services, Franklin said. That included an assessment of the commercial possibilities of ideas, business counseling and mentoring, market research and leads to capital investors.

"We take them to the point they're ready to go talk to a banker," Franklin said.

Helping entrepreneurs can produce a big payback, Taylor said.

"What you get is serial entrepreneurs," he said. "They succeed, and when they do, they want to do it again."

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