The 2020 Kansas Legislative Session is underway here in Topeka, and the Department of Commerce has had a busy first few weeks. We’ve been working to provide information and testimony to several key legislative committees on the status of various programs and initiatives that involve our agency and economic development in Kansas.
Since Governor Kelly was inaugurated last year, our agency has been focused on better communicating what we do, how we do it and why we do it. The effort to increase transparency at our agency is a critical step towards further accountability. The people of our state, our business community and the Legislature deserve nothing less.
We started the session with a roll-out of the new Incentive Transparency Database. I was glad to appear before the Joint House and Senate Commerce Committees to share how this new tool will provide more information on Commerce programs and impacts. The database provides visibility into how our agency administers incentives and helps generate new investment and create new jobs in Kansas. The Incentive Transparency Database will continue to populate with more data as we go forward, and we’ll continue the discussion around ways that economic development and transparency can work hand-in-hand.
Part of the testimony I’ve provided to the Legislature revolves around recent audits and reports, including the required Annual Reports for several incentive programs. In addition to walking through these reports with Legislators, we’ve also posted them online so that interested Kansans can review them.
You can now read detailed Annual Reports for:
In addition to updating the Legislature and providing annual reports on our state’s incentive programs, our agency has several key priorities for legislation that will be taken up in the coming session. This includes the renewal of two important programs: STAR Bonds and the Kansas Angel Investor Tax Credit Program.
First, one of the most well-known and successful tools for development in our state—the STAR Bonds program—is up for renewal this year in the Kansas Legislature. We’ve engaged in discussions with legislative leaders in both chambers to discuss how we can make some improvements and get the program renewed for the future. We want to look at unique opportunities that can be a difference-maker in state tourism and introduce some new components and safeguards that will help it meet current and future needs of local communities across Kansas. We hope that by the end of the session we’ll be moving forward with this important development tool having been refined but still in our toolbox as a state for the next five years.
Another important growth tool that we hope to extend during this session is the Kansas Angel Investor Tax Credit Program. This program helps provide access to capital for Kansas start-ups. No doubt, the effort to encourage new start-up growth will play a large role in our plans to grow Kansas. We must help more entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground and turn them into sustainable, scalable businesses. The “Angels” program helps them achieve their dreams by making capital more accessible. That capital is sourced from investors who believe in the mission to grow and start more businesses right here in Kansas.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be continuing our effort to share information about Commerce programs and impacts, evaluate the findings of recent audits and program reports and promote more discussion around the best ways to encourage new residents and businesses to choose Kansas.
The picture above was my view of this year’s State of the State speech, sitting with other members of Governor Kelly’s Cabinet in the West Gallery.
Earlier in the session, Governor Kelly delivered her second State of the State Address, which highlighted the many areas in which we are making progress here in Kansas. I’m proud that she highlighted our agency’s efforts to rebuild for the future and get back to “Best in Class” status. In particular, our efforts to elevate and rebuild our International Trade Division has been a large priority here at the Department of Commerce. With hardworking staff across the agency and a hardworking Governor who values our work and understands its importance, we are well on our way towards ushering in a new phase of growth for our state.
I am enormously grateful and humbled to step into our beautiful house of the people and report on our progress to their representatives in the Legislature. We are all here to serve the state we love. I sincerely thank our partners in the Legislature for their continued service.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,