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Kansas Bioscience Authority Will Go On The Auction Block

Stephen Koranda
Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave answers questions about the KBA sale during a meeting at the Statehouse.

The Kansas Bioscience Authority will soon go on the auction block. A state panel Wednesday officially merged the KBA into the Kansas Department of Commerce, the first step in selling off the state-funded investment organization.

Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave says the agency will be taking bids to purchase the organization in the coming months. He says they’re hoping for a buyer with a connection to the state of Kansas.

“We’d like to make sure, to the extent that we can, that a potential buyer really has an interest in growing jobs in Kansas, growing investment in Kansas, Keeping a physical presence,” Soave says.

The State Finance Council approved the merger and will later review bids for the KBA’s assets.

The Bioscience Authority is a tax-funded organization created in 2004 to foster companies and economic growth in industries such as human and animal health.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says selling the organization is the right thing to do. She says tax dollars were squandered and the state shouldn’t dip into the investment sector.

Wagle compares the money the state invested over the last 12 years against an initial estimate that the sale might net just $25 million or more.

“It’s best that state taxpayer dollars do not go into private investments. I just think it’s a lesson learned. We actually have lost hundreds of millions of dollars,” Wagle says.

House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs says the KBA has benefitted Kansas by helping to attract development such as the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility and the National Cancer Institute designation for the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Burroughs hopes lawmakers will take time to determine what the KBA is really worth.

“It’s a prudent position to understand the true value of that portfolio and any innovative developments we may have moving forward,” he says.

Soave says the department is still reviewing the value of the organization, so he couldn’t say if the original $25 million estimate for the KBA sale is accurate.

The state will need to sell off the investment portfolio, building and land owned by the KBA. A final agreement could include a package deal or selling off the parts separately.

Soave says the sale could be completed by the end of the year.

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.