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Orman seeks new perspective to challenges PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 March 2018 12:49

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EARL WATT
• Leader & Times



While many of the candidates in the race for Kansas governor have to make a case for a better future for Kansas, Independent Greg Orman is having to make two.

First, he has to convince Republicans and Democrats that their parties are locked in a battle that hasn’t benefitted the people of Kansas.

But that alone won’t be enough. He will also have to convince the voters he has a better plan on how to address the issues facing Kansas.

He outlined his plan during a recent stop in Liberal, taking a broader view of challenges facing the state.

“One of the biggest issues in Kansas is a demographic challenge,” Orman said. “We are aging far faster than the rest of the nation. Our kids are leaving. We need to grow the Kansas economy. What I’ve seen is a series of tactics, tax policy here, some incentive for growing jobs, but no proactive economic development strategy. We ask a couple of questions. What are our natural strengths? We are in the geographic center of the country where we are moving from bricks and mortar to a distribution economy.”

In linking transportation to retention of younger Kansans, Orman presented a vision of enhancing the movement of goods through the Sunflower State as a way to create jobs.

“We have three Class 1 railroads in Kansas,” he said. “We have access to low cost agricultural products. We should be the intermodal transportation center of America.”

But the process has been counterproductive to growth in this industry due to bureaucratic red tape, he said.

“One company built in Texas because they said it would take twice as long in Kansas,” Orman said. “They told us, ‘We are willing to help grow the industry if you do your part of speeding up the process.’ Burlington said they would spend $5 or $6 billion more if they could spend the money, but the regulatory process takes too long. We have to examine the obstacles.”

Orman also questioned the stagnating ideas surrounding education, where one party touts vouchers while the other looks for more and more spending.

“West of Wichita, we have one private high school,” Orman said. “How will vouchers solve the problem in Liberal? We’ve also heard we should pour hundreds of millions of dollars in the top of the funnel. The reality is, between low income students and high income kids, two thirds of the achievement gap is contributed to summer learning deficit.”

Orman shared his own experience, growing up poor and spending his summers away from academics while higher income peers continued to be exposed to educational opportunities.

“Look at the number of age-appropriate books in a household,” he said. “There are 30 for high income families and 0 to 2 for low.”

Orman also pointed out that getting students to school is a key factor. In one example, he shared that an urban school in Kansas had a 44 percent graduation rate, but anyone who lived within a mile did not qualify for transportation. When the district reduced that to half a mile, graduation jumped to 70 percent.

“You look at the economic implications and social costs to getting a high school education,” he said. “We are taking approaches to these problems and fight about the same things over and over again. No one looks critically at the root cause and how to solve it differently.”

And that doesn’t always mean throwing more money at the problem. Orman said in his company, instead of throwing money into a massive advertising campaign, his sales staff changed how they presented the material to customers, helping educate the better, and the closing rate went from “next to zero to 50 percent.”

“We didn’t just throw money at it or take the simple answer,” Orman said. “Ross Perot said he started his company with a $1,000 loan from his wife. He said if she had lent him $50,000 he’d probably be broke today. Money has a tendency to salve over problems. We don’t solve the problem, we put a band aid on it with money.”

For Orman, the solution has to lie in abandoning the old arguments and re-examining the issues with a fresh perspective.

“Are we taking the right approach?” he said. “As a business guy, that is the approach I bring to solving problems.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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