Archive for Thursday, March 25, 2004

State bioscience act challenge to cities

March 25, 2004

The Kansas Legislature is apparently going to challenge local governments to match its creative approach to economic development. The stimulus is the Kansas Economic Growth Act now before the Senate, which will provide $500 million to recruit and develop bioscience industries by diverting new state corporate, income, property and sales taxes owed by those engaged in biosciences to a new statewide authority. The goal -- stated in the act -- is nothing less than to make "Kansas a national leader in bioscience."
Local governments can link to this stimulus package with the recreation of a bioscience development district that would offer similar tax incentives from city, county and school districts.
It is probably too early for De Soto to start discussions about forming such a district, although some early examination of a possible De Soto place in a larger joint district with the county or K-10 corridor group might be justified. But State Rep. Rob Boyer suggests forward-looking cities need not take that step to realize benefits from the unprecedented economic development initiative. He suggests cities identify a niche area at which they can compete and develop corresponding incentive packages.
De Soto has something of a head start in that effort. The city funded a De Soto Economic Development Council targeted industry study that found life sciences to be one of four industries on which it should focus its recruitment efforts. It was found that effort would build on the Intervet Inc.'s relocation to the community and would benefit from the city proximity to Kansas University and the Stowers Institute.
De Soto could also get a boost should the transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant proceed on its current path. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is demanding a "significant" portion of the plant be reserved for a life-science research park. Her signature is needed if Johnson County's attempt to acquire the plant for immediate resale to Kessinger/Hunter and Co. is to go forward.
The Growth Act would add another level of incentives at Sunflower to those included in legislation approved by the Kansas Legislature a year ago. And it would allow a governor making demands of a private developer the possibility of offering research facilities at Sunflower that would make it attractive to bioscience firms looking for a new home.
The consultants who completed De Soto's targeted industry study suggested it serve as the basis for the city's economic development incentives. The Legislature's action would seem to give that action more justification. City Council action to align the results of that study with tax abatements or other incentives would send the message that De Soto wanted to be included into what legislators and economic development professionals are calling the most important economic development initiative in the state's history.

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