Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said Thursday that his agency is a little more than halfway through integrating Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. into the Commerce Department.
"Having been through many transitions and acquisitions on the private side, this has been smooth, maybe smoother than I anticipated," George said in a conference call with reporters.
Gov. Sam Brownback called for eliminating KTEC, the state's high-tech economic development agency, in his fiscal 2012 state budget. It was part of broader cuts his budget called for to meet lower state revenue.
"The whole reason for doing this was not because we had a bad organization that we were taking over, but because of the times we are in," George said. "KTEC has done many good things for the state over the years."
KTEC officially became part of Commerce on July 1.
Kevin Carr, former CEO of KTEC who is now a director at the Commerce Department, said two other KTEC staff members also have transferred over to Commerce. He said during the call that there were 10 positions at KTEC before its work moved to Commerce.
Five KTEC programs survived the dismantling, with one, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, moving to the Kansas Board of Regents.
That leaves KTEC's entrepreneurial centers, including Wichita Technology Corp., university centers of excellence such as the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State, the angel investor tax credit program and the Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center, in the hands of Commerce.
But gone are programs such as the Kansas Pipeline fellowship program for promising high-tech and bioscience entrepreneurs. The nonprofit organization, which received most of its funding from KTEC, has embarked on its own fundraising to continue operating.
Also gone with the dismantling is KTEC's direct investment program, which provided technology-based startup firms with early stage capital.
For now Carr, who joined KTEC when it was founded in 1987, will continue to help lead the integration. But he wouldn't say if his posting at Commerce is permanent.
"I am here for now and I think that's just to be determined," Carr said. "My job is to come in and help integrate" KTEC.
The other KTEC employees working at Commerce now are Wade Wiebe, who oversees the angel tax credits, and Wendi Lucero, an administrative assistant.
George described the transition as 60 percent complete.
"The first six months is critical.... So far, everything indicates this was a good move," he said.
Good as in creating efficiencies. Carr said efficiencies have been achieved primarily in back-office functions such as accounting, information technology, public relations and administration.
"Those things can be absorbed," Carr said. "That's part of the efficiencies of consolidation."
In his budget proposal, Brownback estimated that dismantling KTEC would save $1.7 million a year.
George said Commerce has enlisted the help of some former KTEC board members on different initiatives. He said he also intends for Commerce to fill the role KTEC had at entrepreneurial events around the state, such as the Great Plains Capital Conference held annually in the fall in Wichita.
"My business development division, I liken it to a sales force," George said. "We are always looking for leads."
GPCC is "one (event) that we will have a presence at strategically," he said. "We are always looking at events like these."