By Murrel Bland

Gov. Jeff Colyer said that as he travels the State of Kansas, the number one concern he encounters from business owners and managers is the severe lack of qualified employees.

The governor, who spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, June 15 at Children’s Mercy Park, said he has appointed a Governor’s Education Council to face this issue. He praised Kansas City, Kansas, Community College and its Technical Education Center that is training people and issuing certificates in critical skill areas. The governor said there presently are 52,000 job openings in the state.

Gov. Colyer said that to meet the challenges that businesses require, schools will have to reinvent themselves. He said this will require schools to examine many things including what and when they teach. It also will require an emphasis on soft skills such as showing up on time.

The Governor said the state is at the “intersection of Kansas smart and Kansas nice.” He said the state is in the middle of the country, a strategic location that is a very definite advantage. Earlier that day, he was at an industrial park in Edgerton and told of the Kubota tractor company which has located there because of the central location.

The governor also talked about 74 opportunity zones including census tracts in the eastern part of Wyandotte County. A federal law, passed last year, allows qualified businesses to build in these areas and be exempt from capital gains taxes. He said he has talked to Mayor David Alvey and potential developers about such areas.

Gov. Colyer told about an innovative success story concerning an opportunity zone in downtown Goodland, a city in Northwestern Kansas. They are training people who write software code, starting in kindergarten and continuing through community college. They have attracted software companies that pay 30-year-olds $75,000 a year.

Craig Gaffney, the chairman of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce, thanked the governor for recently meeting with a delegation from the chamber and listening to its legislative agenda.

Colyer became governor on Jan. 31 this year when Sam Brownback resigned to become the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Colyer is a medical doctor who served in the Kansas House of Representatives and Kansas Senate. He also is a volunteer who serves with the International Medical Corps. He and his wife Ruth have three daughters.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.