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While the current priority in the COVID-19 pandemic is stopping the spread and addressing the public health issues, we need to remember that we need to start looking long term to the economic recovery Kansas and our country will need to address.
The economic recovery will need to be addressed both in the immediate and in the long term. We need to start making plans now to address the long term economic recovery with the goal of not just recovering from the current economic impact of COVID-19 but also looking at long term growth for our state.
First and foremost our state’s leaders need to step up to the plate and start addressing the state’s economic recovery. Gov. Laura Kelly needs to have people working on this now, and making it as public as the health response. The Legislature needs to form a committee or task force to start meeting and holding virtual hearings with stakeholders around the state to put a plan together. The economic recovery will be a dominate theme of the 2021 legislative session, and planning needs to start now, not in January.
First and foremost, we need to address our state’s tax structure, including income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. We need a smarter tax policy that will make companies want to come here. This includes our high property taxes. We will also need to address our state’s spending as part of responsible fiscal management.
Next, we’ll need to address our state’s high electric rates, and work to reduce electricity costs, which businesses want to see.
Reducing taxes and rates will make all parts of our state more attractive to business, including in our rural communities. For our rural communities, we’ll need to make sure that 5G is a top priority so that businesses have the infrastructure that they’ll need.
The key to any economic recovery plan for our state is to fundamentally change the way that our state does business. Kansas will need to be proactive and aggressive in recruiting and retaining businesses. We are going to be facing stiff competition from other states and while we can have great economic conditions, a great workforce and great quality of life, we’ll need to sell why us and not another state. To do this, we need to bring back marketing officers in the commerce department who are aggressively selling our state to business.
Florida has been very aggressive in marketing its business climate. When New York banks were looking to locate offices outside of the region post-Sept. 11, Florida and Tampa officials were aggressive into recruiting these firms, turning Tampa into the “Wall Street of the South.”
We also need to be aggressive in bringing tourists to our state to help our hospitality industry and small towns. Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor just launched a new branding and marketing plan for his state’s tourism industry, and Kansas needs to be just as aggressive.
Kansans have always shot for the stars, and as we know we have difficulties along the way. The Ad Astra spirit has guided Kansans through past crisis and will guide us through this one. That spirit is what should guide us through the coming economic recovery as we are aggressive to not only recover but to grow as we reach for the stars.
Wink Hartman is the CEO of the Hartman Group of Companies in Wichita and the 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.