McKinsey & Company recently completed a series of workshops across the state as part of the firm’s $800,000 contract to recommend an economic growth strategy for the state of Kansas, but some legislators say their real focus is on growing state government.  And since the state is already spending more than record-setting tax collections, more state spending will lead to more tax increases.

According to the Kansas Framework for Growth Twitter account, workshops were by invitation only.

Kansas State Senator Richard Hilderbrand (R-District 13) attended the workshop in Fort Scott but was not invited; he attended as a guest of another person. The guest list included a mix of business owners and government employees according to Kansas State Senator Caryn Tyson (R-District 12), who also attended as someone’s guest.

“It was well attended by people in the southeast Kansas area. It had a mix of government people and few business people,” said Tyson.

According to both Hilderbrand and Tyson, McKinsey representatives conducting the workshops presented a lot of data regarding southeast Kansas. After the event, Tyson requested the data from McKinsey to more closely examine the data.

“I asked for copies of the slides and sources for the data and I still have not received that information yet, so I am looking forward to getting the information.”

At an economic conference at the University of Kansas a few weeks ago, Commerce Secretary David Toland said the Department of Commerce would put anyone in contact with the McKinsey group if they reached out to the department. The Sentinel has asked twice to be put in contact with the McKinsey to discuss the Kansas Growth economic study. There has never been a response to our request from the Department of Commerce, and we’re still fighting through an Open Records request to determine whether the McKinsey contract was put out for bid.

Hilderbrand also has concerns over McKinsey’s approach to Kansas.

“I honestly don’t think they had an understanding of our area yet. I think they are more data-driven.” Hilderbrand continued, “Most people realize data is as good as what you are collecting, you can collect whatever data you want for any outcome that you want.”

Tyson felt a lot of the findings are things that Kansans already know, giving examples of broadband access and IT training in k-12 schools.

“It is issues that we have been working on that we didn’t need a consulting company to tell us,” Tyson.

A key takeaway for Hilderbrand was the recommended application of data presented.

“It appeared that the presentation, it had some pretty good data. It appeared to gear everything toward government picking winners and losers. That they need to spend more on incentives and target the incentives on these different areas,” said Hilderbrand.

Given the growth of government incentives in Kansas, Hilderbrand expressed concerns that the narrative getting pushed by McKinsey in the workshops was one focused on a ‘government first’ approach to the economy.

“It seems like they were driving a government first approach where my belief is that economic development is driven by the people,” said Hilderbrand. “Those people in business those are the last people talked to, which seems backward. Those should be the drivers.”

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