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2018 Bioscience & Innovation Day Recap

Posted By BioKansas, Thursday, February 8, 2018

Last week, BioKansas and the Enterprise Center of Johnson County led a sizable delegation to Topeka for Bioscience & Innovation Day at the Capitol.  The day featured small group meetings with legislators throughout the morning, a legislator lunch featuring talks from the ECJC, JCB Laboratories and KCAS Bioanalytical & Biomarker Services, and a short debrief session where attendees discussed takeaways and action items. 

BioKansas would like to thank Shahira Stafford and Ron Seeber of the Kansas Agribusiness Retailer's Association for their help in coordinating the day's schedule, as well as Merck Animal Health and the ECJC, who helped to sponsor the Welcom Breakfast and Legislator Lunch, respectively.  We also must acknowledge Melissa Roberts of the ECJC, who was key to the success in organizing and marketing the event.  With her help, we were able to assemble an impressively large (more than 50 strong!) and diverse delegation who collectively educated legislators on the need for resources and continued support for innovators and innovative tech and life science companies in the state.  Melissa has written up a great summary of the messaging we heard that day, which is included below. 

Going forward, BioKansas will continue to engage with the legislature throughout the remainder of the session, and we will be in contact with our membership for additional follow up opportunities and/or when the need arises.  If you are interested in joining the BioKansas Public Policy Committee, please let us know.  The committee is integral in helping guide the organization’s positions on legislation and policy, and meets once a month while the legislature is in session. 

 

From:
Melissa Roberts
Vice President, Strategy & Economic Development
Enterprise Center in Johnson County
913-449-5307

This was the first time that we’ve collaborated with BioKansas on an event like this—it was a resounding success and collaboration strengthened both our messages. I’ve attached the leave-behind we used so that you can see what issues we promoted. We had almost 50 innovators in Topeka yesterday, meeting and greeting members of the legislature and speaking to a group over the lunch hour. In the morning, we were joined by Majority Leader Don Hineman, who shared his thoughts with us. Then, we broke out into small groups and met with 38 members of the legislature.

Here are some of the messages that came across loud and clear:                             

  1. The focus of the legislature right now is on the K-12 funding formula, which has large-scale implications on the state budget for years to come. There’s very little ability to talk about additional appropriations or workforce development issues until the next budget cycle, which will be the 2019 session (for FY20).
  2. There is a broad sense of optimism that the state is nearing the end of our financial crisis and that the legislature will be able to “get back to governing” again towards the end of the session. Many in leadership agreed that this is a great time to begin the conversation about what future appropriations to support this community could look like, and expressed an interest in being involved in that process.
  3. We were able to identify some legislative advocates who will be part of future efforts to include innovation and entrepreneurship funding priorities in the FY20 budget, many of whom have expressed interest in participating in an Innovation Caucus. We are working to organize a future meeting now, and I’ll keep you in the loop as that effort progresses.
  4. All legislators who were in office two years ago immediately recognized Angel Tax Credits as the policy that they had last heard from this community about. They were all quick to bring that up, which is a great indicator that our messaging has made an impact in the past.
  5. All legislators we talked to recognized that Commerce is desperately underfunded, and that resource crunch is impacting incentives like the Angel Investment Tax Credit. We will continue to stay in close contact with Commerce to understand how we can best help  them communicate changes in the implementation of this credit to entrepreneurs and investors.

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions, thoughts or suggestions for next year!

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Advocacy  Education  Entrepreneurship  Workforce Development 

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The Importance of the Graduate Student Tax Waiver

Posted By Dennis Ridenour, President & CEO, Wednesday, December 13, 2017

By now, you're likely aware of the tax bill that is wending its way through Congress.  One change our members have identified that could have a major impact on both educational access and workforce/talent development is the elimination of the graduate student tax waiver.  Please see below to read our recent outreach to Kansas legislators, asking them to keep this crucial provision in any tax legislation that moves forward.  

Dear Kansas Representative/Senator:
As a representative of the life science and healthcare industries in the state of Kansas, and on behalf of the nearly 27,000 students who attend graduate school in the state of Kansas, I’m writing to ask that Congress not consider graduate student tuition waivers as taxable income.  As you know, in addition to a small stipend to help cover living expenses, graduate students in STEM fields (science, tech, engineering and math) often have their tuition waived in exchange for having the student teach, or perform research for the school.  Currently, this waived tuition is not taxed as income.  However, a provision in the recently approved House bill would change that, adding the amount of waived tuition to the student's taxable income.  If passed, this will have a profound impact on the ability of students to earn advanced degrees, and, subsequently, the talent pipeline that feeds into the industries these students hope to work in.  
As an M.S. degree holder, I can speak firsthand to the benefit this tuition waiver provides for graduate students, who already exist on a relatively meager stipend and who shouldn’t have to worry about finding enough money to cover taxes on money that they won’t actually see.  If this waiver is eliminated, we could see a drastic decrease in the number of students who are able to afford graduate school at Kansas institutions such as the University of Kansas, Wichita State, Kansas State, Emporia State, Pitt State, Fort Hays State and the University of Kansas Medical Center.  This could cause a profound decrease in the qualified talent available to the life science, healthcare and biotech industries across the country and in Kansas.  
During the reconciliation process, please ask your House/Senate colleagues who are Conferees to remove this clause of the tax bill, and continue to support education, and access to it, for students in Kansas and across the country.  Please do not hesitate to reach out if BioKansas can help provide more information or connections to students who would be directly impacted.  
Thank you for your time, and I hope we can count on your support.
Sincerely,

Dennis Ridenour
President & CEO, BioKansas

 

Tags:  Advocacy  Education  Workforce Development 

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Topeka Science and Technology Park Task Force

Posted By BioKansas & GoTopeka, Monday, August 14, 2017
The BioKansas network stretches across the region, from St. Louis to western Kansas.  While a majority of our members are located in the Kansas City metropolitan region, one of the most interesting aspects of our role in the community is hearing about (and spreading the word about) all of the great initiatives and programs being developed in communities outside of KC.  One such community is Topeka, which boasts of major life science and healthcare organizations (Hill's Pet Nutrition and Stormont Vail Health, among others), and a number of active and engaged community leaders.  These leaders, along with community groups like GOTopeka and the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, recognize the opportunity for the city and are coming together to raise awareness of the opportunities in animal health, workforce development and entrepreneurship.  We hope you'll join us in Topeka on Thursday at the Q3 BioKansas Board Meeting & Networking Reception, where you'll have a chance to hear from these community leaders on the local efforts to raise the profile of Topeka through a number of initiatives.  You can register online for free HERE.  
-Dennis Ridenour, President & CEO, BioKansas

Given the ever-expanding Animal Health Corridor, the development and expansion of the Kansas State University north campus (adjacent to NBAF facility), along with the development of the University of Kansas west campus, there is an obvious gap (Topeka) in the expansion and growth of the corridor from Kansas City to Manhattan.

A group of business and community leaders, along with the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, have begun the process of determining how Topeka can/should participate in the continued and future growth of the Animal Health Corridor along with emerging opportunities in AgTech and Translational Health in the region. To that end:

  • A Task Force has been formed
  • Visits to proximate communities in the Corridor and adjacent communities to access and understand the economic benefit of an entrepreneurial incubator environment
  • Have hired a consulting firm to do a feasibility study and development plan to determine
  • Areas of opportunity
  • Resources required (financial, city, county, private sector)
  • Location options (possibly in conjunction with a broader re-development initiative)

While the precise nature of the opportunities and focus are still to be determined (i.e. Fintech, AgTech, logistics, etc.), it seems abundantly clear that the biosciences should/will be an area of focus.

In conjunction with the efforts of the Science and Technology Task Force, an Entrepreneurial Task Force (ETF - similar to Wichita) has also been formed and has begun to map the local resources available for start-up efforts.

Additionally, Mid-America Angels has opened a satellite effort in Topeka, and a small seed fund also has been established to begin to lay the foundation for the necessary early capital critical for attracting and retaining entrepreneurial efforts.

While still in the early stages of exploration and determination, there is a great deal of energy around this initiative.

-Duane Cantrell, CEO, Fulcrum Global Capital and Co-Chair of the Topeka Science and Technology Park Task Force

 

Tags:  Connect  Education  Entrepreneurship  Workforce Development 

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MATC Critical Environment Technologies

Posted By Barb Wenger, MATC Director of Bioscience, Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Note from BioKansas: One of our primary functions at BioKansas is to act as a connector between industry and education.  To this end, we work to align the curriculum of our educators with the evolving needs of our members.  There are many efforts across the region to teach, adequately train and develop the future workforce for our industry, but most of those programs are focused on training the scientists or technicians.  We think MATC has identified a true area of need with their training and certification programs outlined below, which target those whose job it is to service and maintain the laboratories, clean rooms and other critical facilities of our members.  We think this is a great example of surveying industry, identifying a talent gap, and then quickly developing a program to address that gap.  For more information on this program or how it was developed in conjunction with industry input, please contact Barb Wenger, MATC Director of Bioscience, who contributed the piece below.  


Since 2016, Manhattan Area Technical College (MATC) has been working to create a flexible Biohazardous Risk Reduction training for non-science workers in high containment environments. As the future National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) campus and the Animal Health Corridor bring more biotechnology companies to the Kansas-Missouri area, the need for construction and mechanical workers for these high containment facilities is growing. At the same time, the highly specialized environments necessary for biohazardous work create an inevitable gap in industry safety procedures designed to address a wider range of buildings. Thus, increased employment opportunities bring with them a growing need for risk reduction and safety training for high containment personnel. As a recipient of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s NBAF Think & Do Challenge, MATC has designed a Biohazardous Risk Reduction training option to provide safety skills training for Operations & Maintenance technicians, contractors, and others who work in and around critical environments. The goal of this training is to minimize workers’ exposure to occupational injuries and deadly pathogens by developing safety skills and raising awareness of potential hazards.

“From the beginning it has been our intent to make certain we understand the needs and standards of NBAF so that we can offer training within their required guidelines,” said Barbara Wenger, MATC Director of Bioscience.

MATC recently piloted two successful Biohazardous Risk Reduction Training sessions and hopes to begin offering the course to the public on a regular and recurring basis.

The next step for MATC is to develop its Critical Environments Facility Technician training program. This program, built on an HVAC foundation will enable current facility technicians to use their trade skills within critical environments such as cleanrooms, data centers as well as BSL3-BSL4 facilities. “MATC has been a terrific partner to NBAF. Their work is helping us lean in to important operational planning”, said NBAF Operational Planning Manager, Timothy Burke.

 “We recognized early on that there will be a host of partners in academia, private industry, and beyond who support NBAF. This further motivated us to develop the most relevant and impactful training possible,” said Wenger.

For more information on MATC’s Biohazardous Risk Reduction program or their Critical Environments Facility Technician training program, please contact Barb Wenger or visit http://www.manhattantech.edu/cet/critical-environment-technologies.   

Tags:  Education  Training  Workforce Development 

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