House votes to shut down KTEC, move functions to Commerce and colleges

TOPEKA — Following Gov. Sam Brownback’s lead, the House has approved a bill to abolish the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation.

The agency, better known as KTEC, is a state-owned corporation created in 1986 to help incubate high-tech industries by providing business assistance and in some cases, direct financial investment, to emerging companies .

As a budget-cutting measure, Brownback proposed to abolish the stand-alone agency and merge its functions into the Department of Commerce and the Board of Regents.

The move is expected to save about $1.7 million a year.

Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, made the case for keeping KTEC, saying its efforts had generated $1.15 billion in business sales and 2,043 high-paying jobs in the last three years.

He said he’s concerned that KTEC’s specific portfolio, high-tech startups, would get lost in the larger Commerce Department.

“In my opinion, KTEC needs to be a stand-alone agency,” Gatewood said. “Kansas will truly suffer if we pass this and merge this.”

Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, who carried the bill on the House floor, said KTEC was a good idea in 1986, when he was in junior high.

But now, he said, “today every business we look at has technology consequences … Business is technology.”

“Any of us who have seen KTEC work in our districts know some wonderful things have come from it,” said Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City. But she added, “I have great respect for what Gov. Brownback is trying to do.”

The bill, House Bill 2054, passed on a voice vote.