- Rep. Claeys created the position of Director of Unmanned Aircraft Systems with KDOT leadership and initiated the Kansas UAS Research Triangle between our universities
- To draw more engineers, manufacturers and engineering students to Salina, Rep. Claeys proposed the Aviation Engineer & Manufacturing Technician Tax Credit
- Rep. Claeys is working to bring an Aviation Research Park and Small Business Incubator to Salina to create and sustain good-paying jobs
Building on Our Strengths
Aviation is a part of our shared history in Salina, dating back to the dawn of flight with Glenn L. Martin flying his planes in a field south of Kansas Wesleyan all the way to Steve Fawcett setting world records from our airport just a decade ago. While we celebrate our aviation past, it's important we look to the future and the need for high-paying, high-skill jobs in Salina. When commercial use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is approved by the federal government, the floodgates will open as communities look to take part in this unprecedented opportunity for economic growth.
Salina will be a community with a plan in place. Our plan is part of a comprehensive statewide strategy to harness the emerging UAS industry to position Kansas as a national leader in UAS.
Our state government needs to make the growth of the UAS industry a priority, and I have been working hard to make that happen. In February, I worked with KDOT to create a new position to support and direct the growth of this new industry statewide. The new Director of Unmanned Aircraft Systems will work across the state, but will have an office in Salina at Kansas State Polytechnic to spend time growing industry in the region.
K-State Polytechnic is one of the top universities in the country for UAS. Wichita State and the University of Kansas also have robust programs. Working together these universities can pool resources to compete for federal grants and private contracts. In the upcoming budget I've proposed -- with the support of our research universities -- the Kansas UAS Research Triangle. This area between KU, K-State Polytechnic and Wichita State will also serve as the focus for industry development for the UAS Director.
Working with KDOT Aviation and the Secretary of Transportation, we've developed a grant program for UAS facility design at our research universities, with the ultimate goal of building a world-class UAS research and development facility at K-State Polytechnic. Recruiting the brightest students to our universities requires cutting-edge facilities to maintain our competitive edge as a national hub for UAS.
Part of the plan to keep our best minds in Kansas and Salina includes my proposal for a tax credit for UAS engineers and manufacturing jobs based in the state. Any graduate of a Kansas college who is employed as an aviation engineer or UAS manufacturing technician in Kansas will receive a state income tax credit of up to $15,000. This program has the effect of encouraging business to locate here to attract qualified engineers, while encouraging students to attend our universities and stay in Kansas to receive the credit.
To attract businesses in this emerging industry, we must also look at the tools available to us to incentivize growth. Working with K-State Polytechnic and the City of Salina, I'm proposing the creation of a tax-advantaged Aviation Research Park near the university. Along with existing statewide incentives our local government is in a position to offer 10 years of tax abatements to encourage businesses creating jobs to develop right here in Salina.
Many of these businesses will be home grown. With students graduating and largely being poached out of state, we can reverse that trend with the creation of a UAS Small Business Incubator. Incubators can help young entrepreneurs connect with mentors, technical assistance and other services that they need to launch and grow their businesses.
To assist startups in our incubator with the capital they need to grow their business and create jobs, I'm proposing that KPERS review diversifying their alternative investment portfolio to invest in Kansas small businesses being created at Kansas incubators. Similar programs have had success in states across the country, with New York's pension fund seeing a 20 percent return on investment and the creation of 4,000 new jobs.
There is an unprecedented opportunity before us in Salina to be at the forefront of an emerging industry. It is time for us to step forward and seize this opportunity to create new jobs and be the national leader in UAS. I look forward to working with our universities, businesses, and local government to build on our shared goal of growing good-paying jobs in Salina.