LAWRENCE — With Kansas and the nation cautiously recovering from a recession, and with a heated presidential election just weeks away, Donna Ginther thinks it’s a good time for a candid conversation about factors contributing to the growth of the state economy. She sees the annual Kansas Economic Policy Conference, scheduled for Oct. 18 at the University of Kansas, as an ideal public arena for that kind of conversation.
“The conference brings together academics, business people and policymakers to discuss programs and policies that promote economic development,” said Ginther, a professor of economics at the KU. She is organizer of the event, which is open to the public and sponsored by KU’s Institute for Policy & Social Research and the Office of the Provost. “The variety of speakers this year is outstanding, and we expect some very lively discussions about the state of the state in 2012.”
The theme of the conference, which begins at 8 a.m. and concludes at 2:15 p.m., is The Kansas Economy: Investing in People, Business, and Community. The conference originates in Lawrence, but a satellite location in Ulysses makes it available to a live audience in western Kansas, courtesy of Pioneer Communications and the Grant County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism.
“The focus is on the future,” said Ginther, “and on what we as policy makers, researchers and citizens can do to help build a stronger Kansas.”
Keynote speakers for the conference are Joseph A. Aistrup, professor of political science at Kansas State University and interim associate dean of its College of Arts and Sciences; Erin Sparks, senior policy analyst in the Economic, Human Services & Workforce Division of the National Governors Association; and Kenny Wilk, a former Kansas state representative and current member of the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Bioscience Authority board of directors.
Aistrup will speak on “Government, Politics and the Kansas Economy.” Sparks and Wilk will speak as a panel on “Policies to Grow State Economies.” Other speakers, scheduled during panels on “Innovation and Economic Development” and “Communities Facilitating Economic Growth – Investments that Work,” are:
• Sen. Steve Morris, president of the Kansas State Senate, Hugoton;
• Sen. Jeff King, member of the Kansas State Senate, Independence, and a leader of Project 17: Southeast Kansas Economic Improvement Initiative;
• Jeff Hofaker, president, western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance and director, Phillips County Economic Development, Phillipsburg;
• Marty Long, Grant County Commissioner, Ulysses, and Western Kansas Development Organization;
• Barbara Handelin, president and principal, BioPontis Alliance, Raleigh, N.C.; and
• Bala Subramaniam, director, KU Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.
Other KU participants in the conference are Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the School of Business; Steve Warren, vice chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies; Julie Goonewardene, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship; and Steven Maynard-Moody, director of the Institute for Policy & Social Research.
“This conference is intended for anyone with a stake in the future of Kansas,” said Ginther. “Our mission is to promote new insights about these issues that lead to action and positive change.”
The complete conference agenda, online registration, and information about the featured speakers are available online.