Kansas gubernatorial candidate Jim Barnett said Tuesday the state’s stagnant economy needed to be jolted to life with job-creation strategies matched to regional demands and with employment-training programs conforming to local workplace expectations.
“Kansas lost over 12,000 private-sector jobs in the last year, and we have 60,000 jobs across the state going unfilled,” said Barnett, who rolled out the economic vision in Topeka.
“Southwest is different than southeast Kansas, which is different from central and northern Kansas, which is different than Johnson County. We need to recognize the assets of each region.”
Barnett, a former state senator who represented Emporia, is in a large field of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in 2018.
The roster includes Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, businessman Wink Hartman and former legislator Ed O’Malley.
In terms of Kansas job expansion, Barnett said, one-size-fits-all models fall short.
High-potential industries in each region must be recognized when making investments in workforce, education, health care and infrastructure, he said.
In addition, he said, local education and business systems need to be linked to develop the niche workers sought by companies.
“The state has a role, but that role needs to be tailored to the needs of individual communities and businesses,” Barnett said.