Kansas’ agricultural sector provides it opportune positioning to excel in the world of bioscience, a leader in the field said Friday during a public forum in Ottawa.
During the First Friday Forum, Duane Cantrell, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, said he’s confident his organization will not only add jobs to Kansas, but also bolster the state’s economy.
“Why bioscience? Because in a worldwide basis it’s one of the fastest growing sectors in the world economy,” Cantrell, who has led the organization for about five months, said. “If you look at the opportunities that exist for a state like Kansas to be a worldwide leader, bioscience is certainly one of those opportunities.”
Bioscience, Cantrell said, largely is broken down into four primary segments: bioenergy, ag- or bio-based products and animal and human health. The field studies the use of compositions, methods and organisms in cellular and molecular research to be used in the development for such areas as pharmaceuticals, medical diagnostics devices and instruments in addition to veterinary medicine, plant biology and much more, according to the KBA’s website.
Kansas is part of what Cantrell referred to as the “animal health corridor,” which spans from Manhattan and to Colombia, Mo. That corridor, he said, is responsible for a significant portion of the world’s animal health products and services.
“Most people don’t realize that one-third of the total global GDP of animal health is represented by that corridor,” Cantrell said. “There is no place in the world that can say that.”
The KBA, which receives no federal funding, was developed by the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004, Cantrell explained to a crowd of about 40 people Friday. As part of the legislation, the KBA’s funding is derived from the growth of state income-tax withholdings from employees of bioscience-related companies, he said. State taxes that exceed the base-year measurement of such taxes accrue to the authority for investment in additional bioscience growth, the KBA’s website reads. The KBA’s funding has been capped at $35 million per year, Cantrell said. The goal of the KBA, he said, is to make Kansas a global destination for bioscience innovation, commercialization, growth and economic development.
While the group is partially dependent on state funds, Cantrell said, he hopes the KBA soon will become independent with revenue coming from private companies.
“I don’t think we ought to be in a long-term role of having the state fund [the KBA],” Cantrell said. “It was a great way to start, but we’ve got to find a way to privatize that and to bring in private equity into its funding and to create a platform for doing that.”
Cantrell previously was the president of Payless ShoeSource, and managed its $3 billion revenues in addition to 35,000 employees. He now serves as the chairman of the Kansas State University Foundation Board of Trustees and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Kansas State University.
In addition spurring economic development, Cantrell said, one of the KBA’s five primary objectives is to add jobs to Kansas. To enable that job growth, the KBA offers an incubator space within the Kansas Bioscience Park in Olathe. Eleven companies already reside within the company, the KBA’s website reports.
“The third [objective] is to create economically stable jobs,” he said. “A million-dollar grant for university research creates three grant jobs, and then the grant dollars go away, the jobs go away and the scholar moves to Florida. That’s not changing our economy. We’ve got to create an economic base that attracts a company that brings a hundred jobs, paying $70,000 to $100,000 each.”