Life sciences efforts extend to K-10 corridor
The Eudora school district isn't alone in its efforts to push life sciences along the Kansas Highway 10 Corridor. During a meeting Friday at Eudora High School, Lavern Squier, president of the Lawrence-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce, told K-10 Association members an immediate goal for local leaders was to form an action plan for the state Legislature.
"We want to speak from the Douglas County perspective," Squier said.
Currently, life science hubs were on the east and west coasts, he said. Locally they were so far concentrated on the east side of the Kansas City metropolitan area, he said.
What leaders would be looking for, Squier said, were life science partnerships among businesses and educational institutions. It made sense to look at Kansas University, he said.
Plus, Eudora USD 491 is undergoing an effort to create a biotechnology charter school for high school students, a plan that must first garner the support of the Kansas Department of Education.
"Many communities across the state of Kansas would sell themselves to have what we have," Squier said.
Squier said it was hoped life sciences would bring an "intellectual waterfall," with research grant money fueling jobs. He quoted statistics that showed every million dollars in grant money create about 40 jobs.
"We're constantly talking about the need for high-paying jobs," he said. "Life science is going to import wealth."
Those who didn't believe life science research was the next big thing in the area needed look no farther than KU, said Lawrence Mayor David Dunfield. Last year, 100 percent of the increase in research money went for life science research, he said.
USD 491 Superintendent Marty Kobza cited the need for a trained workforce to fill already-existing biotech jobs in the metropolitan area. He cited statistics that said the Kansas City area was short 1,000 workers in middle-level positions.
"They're not going to be the researcher; they're not going to be the doctor," Kobza said. "But it's a good job for middle-of-the-road kids who may not go to a four-year program."
Such training, he said, would work through the vocational education program the district already has in place at the former middle school building downtown.
Moreover, a biotechnology charter school would provide exposure to the subject matter for students who may decide to continue in the area at a four-year institution.
The district looked at the needs of the community Kobza said, like which jobs the Lawrence-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce said the workforce was lacking.
"We do listen to what you have to say," Kobza said. "We try to put it in a plan so we can respond to the needs of the businesses. We're not creating employees but empowering (students) so they can make a choice."