Kansas Success Stories
October 21, 2012
While nationally the jobs picture is bleak, I am constantly amazed at how Kansas bucks that trend. On Thursday we learned that the state's unemployment rate was under 6 percent – a first in nearly four years! It’s a testament to Kansas’ favorable business climate, but also to the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation that we have in the Sunflower State. As I traveled throughout Kansas this week visiting with employers, entrepreneurs, and researchers, I learned about many of the exciting things happening right here in our own backyard. Despite the ever-growing threats from Washington – more tax increases, more regulations, more ObamaCare mandates – Kansas businesswomen and men are moving their enterprises forward. And given the right policy changes this fall, they tell me that there is far more growth and opportunity available.
Riley County will be in the First District starting in 2013. I spent the entire day Monday meeting with community and business leaders in Manhattan.
One of the top highlights of my visit to Manhattan was the opportunity to cut the ribbon at the dedication of the new S.M.A.R.T. Lab at K-State (pictured below). This state-of-the-art facility will provide a clean, safe environment in which government and private sector researchers can test radiation detection devices. There are a multitude of national security and consumer applications for the devices they will develop and test at this new lab. It’s a testament to public-private entrepreneurship that we have this lab at K-State. I look forward to representing the students and faculty at K-State in the 113th Congress.
Also while I was in Manhattan I stopped by GTM Sportswear, where founder and owner Dave Dreiling gave me a tour of his facility. Stories like his are the reason I am committed to making sure the next generation can have the same shot at the American Dream as you and I have had. He literally built his business from the back of his van. It is now a major operation and the major employer in Manhattan. His accomplishments have been publicly recognized and lauded, including by Ernst & Young who in 2007 named him Entrepreneur of the Year for the Central Midwest Region. Another Manhattan business owner who opened his doors to me was Gary Jones of Manko Window Systems. During this visit, I took a tour of his facility and met with employees. Business owners in Manhattan are just like those across the rest of the state: the looming uncertainty with taxes, regulation, and ObamaCare present a major challenge for planning for the future.
|At GTM Sportswear with owner Dave Dreiling||At Manko Window Systems with owner Gary Jones|
We also stopped by the construction site of the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, where Aaron Harries and Dalton Henry gave me an update on the new facility. This Center will house the Kansas Wheat Commission, the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, and Heartland Plant Innovations (a farmer-owned research enterprise) and will also provide educational support for our schools. I am excited about the future for the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, and what it means for those who farm the top crop in Kansas.
|At the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center|
Hy-Vee store manager Brad Walters and their executive Dick Stoffer met with me while I was in Manhattan, and we discussed the need for regulatory certainty and fraud prevention in the Food Stamp program. When people in Washington tell me that we cannot cut food stamps without cutting benefits, I will use this story as just one example of waste and abuse in our system. It’s not fair to Hy-Vee, and it certainly is not fair to taxpayers. They also outlined a continued vision for serving the needs of small- to medium-sized communities across our region.
Finally, a special thank you to Chad Austin with the Kansas Hospital Association who convened a meeting in Manhattan with Kansas hospital administrators and members of the Flint Hills Regional Health Network (including Dee Dee Dewell, John Broberg, Curtis Hawkinson, Doyle McKimmy, Denise Klimek, Marty Ekrem, Patty Searcey, Ron Bender, and Shannan Flach). We talked about all of the major health policy issues of the day, including the President’s new health care law, the looming insolvency of Medicare, and the challenges of Medicaid. We also talked about the unique challenges – and opportunities – with providing health care in rural areas.
|Meeting with key health care leaders in Kansas.|
In the Heart of Kansas
While I spent Monday in the very northeastern part of the First District, I spent Thursday in the very southwestern region. Thank you to Western Plains Medical Complex CEO Michael Burroughs for the tour and opportunity to meet with you. They were recognized as the 2011 Joint Commission top performer on key quality measures for pneumonia, surgical care and heart attack care. We are very fortunate to have this facility available to us in Western Kansas.
Other stops on Thursday included a visit to the Forget-Me-Not Farms Dairy in Cimarron owned by T.J. Curtis, who is also the chair of the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) Dairy Council. In 2008, T.J. and his family moved their 7,000-head cattle operation from New Mexico to Kansas. As a multi-generational family operation, Forget-Me-Not is committed to producing quality milk in a Christian atmosphere – and it shows in their growth, their employees and their attitudes.
Then, I joined T.J. for a meeting with other members of the KLA Dairy Council. We discussed issues such as the shortage of workers in southwest Kansas and the need for common sense immigration policies, the expired Farm Bill, and overregulation out of Washington. As always, I value the input of our producers, and I maintain an open door for all to provide their ideas and feedback about the direction of America’s agriculture policy.
I made two stops outside of the Big First this week. First, I was in Edgerton to visit BNSF Railway’s Logistics Park that is under construction. When it is finished, this facility will become one of the biggest freight logistic centers in the nation, providing warehouse and distribution services for manufacturers and retailers in the Midwest. I am pictured below with Scott Goehri with HDR Engineering and Eric Goodman with BNSF. BNSF indicated that the Boiler MACT regulation prevents them from burning old rail road ties and requires them to place the old ties in landfills. Last fall, the House passed regulation to provide relief from this regulation, but the Senate – as usual – has refused to act on it. Unresolved litigation has left many unanswered questions about the future of this regulation.
|At BNSF in Edgerton|
Second, I stopped by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas in Topeka. Thank you to Mary Beth Chambers for coordinating my visit. We talked about – you can guess – health care reform. I appreciate the feedback about how they are dealing with the flood of ObamaCare regulations coming out of Washington and the health insurance taxes imposed by ObamaCare taking effect in 2014. We will continue to work toward ObamaCare repeal in order to replace it with a health care system that that empowers patients instead of bureaucrats and that focuses on keeping costs low rather than raiding Medicare to pay for it.
Debt Limit Looming
Last August Congress and the President agreed to raise the nation’s debt limit by more than $2 trillion. I opposed this agreement because it focused on getting more money – rather than dealing with the spending problem AND rather than tying the hands of politicians with serious structural reforms. Well, that borrowing is about to run out. And, it may happen before any cuts actually come to fruition.
We have been running monthly projections of when borrowing may run out, and our latest estimates put us at January 11, 2013. This is just a few days after the new Congress will be sworn in and a few days before the next presidential inauguration. The quick fix that Washington opted for in August 2011 resulted in a historic credit rating downgrade. And, now to complicate matters even further, President Obama now has instructed agencies and defense contractors to ignore the planned cuts that came as a result of that August 2011 debt deal. The House passed a fiscally-responsible alternative to the sequestration, but President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have ignored that, too. Failure on the part of Washington to cut spending will only result in another downgrade. We simply cannot afford that.
Member of Congress