METL Coalition

METL Coalition formation establishes core principles to ascertain unified positions of legislative support for these four communities: Manhattan, Emporia, Topeka and Lawrence. These regions can benefit from consistent, forward-minded initiatives where similar challenges may be addressed through the Kansas legislature.

These are the 2018 METL priorities:

Preserve Economic Development Initiatives
Kansas must have available a competitive business incentive package that is relevant, flexible and simple to utilize. The METL Coalition opposes the further diminution of funding to the state’s economic development incentives, such as High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP), Providing Employment Across Kansas program (PEAK), Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bonds and property tax exemption for business and industrial machinery/equipment. The Coalition also supports the exploration of tools including limited student loan forgiveness and tax credits, which incentivize individuals to reside and work in Northeast Kansas.

Fund Transportation Projects in Northeast Kansas
The METL Coalition supports state and federal funding for:the proposed turnpike interchange in southeast Topeka, the replacement of the Interstate 70/Polk/Quincy Viaduct and expansion of the South Lawrence Trafficway (K-10) from two lanes to four. The METL Coalition strongly opposes further diversion of funding from the T-Works Transportation Plan.

Support Programs That Get Kansas Students Ready to Work
Because the economies of Northeast Kansas will not be able to grow without an abundant, educated workforce, the METL Coalition supports policies and programs that provide appropriate funding, resources and leadership for education at all levels, from higher education at our universities to career and technical education, to K-12 and early childhood education, all of which help prepare students for the careers of the future.

Take Advantage of Federal Funding by Expanding Medicaid
The METL Coalition supports strategies and solutions that would help control health care costs, improve outcomes, expand access, support wellness initiatives and create a culture of health in the workplace. The Coalition supports a common-sense public policy approach to ensure the ongoing viability of health care providers and those they serve.

These proposals were presented to state legislators at a December meeting in Topeka. The four chambers represent more than 3,000 eastern-region businesses in the state.

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Workforce the focus for METL Summit held at K-State

Any ideas to the betterment of workforce solutions are heartily welcomed whether presented in cafes, coffee shops, corner laundromats, bistros or in this case the Bluemont Room at K-State Student Union.

Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce helped to organize a METL Workforce Summit at Kansas State University, the third such gathering for the consortium of Manhattan, Emporia, Topeka and Lawrence chambers. Nearly 70 interested constituents gathered Jan. 9 in the Union to exchange best practices for a region with a surplus of job openings and general shortfall of qualified workers.

Represented on the panel were higher education leaders from three regents universities, one each from Emporia State, Kansas State and KU joined by three business-focused individuals. Manhattan Chamber President/CEO Lyle Butler moderated the program. One major METL initiative involves finding suitable jobs for Emporia State, Kansas State, Kansas and Washburn grads to become Kansas professionals and by extension Kansas residents.

Business reps included Ascension Via Christi (Bob Copple), CivicPlus (Brian Rempe) and Steel and Pipe Supply (Corey Kephart). Enhanced internships are one mechanism to broker relationships. Rempe encouraged company representatives to pursue worthy initiatives to bridge from college to corporate. University advisory boards are one example and Kansas State University President Richard Myers affirmed those benefits when met with full dedication.

“Those relationships are built through a connection with professors in the classroom who know the best candidates for internships,” said Rempe, president at CivicPlus, an integrated software developer located in Manhattan which employs 350.

Classroom knowledge and real-world experience need a conduit for advancing students, and that’s where KU Chancellor Douglas Girod would like to see barriers between higher education and workforce reduced or eliminated. Girod referenced career fairs and how the Cerners of the world are easily recognized but smaller companies, even one with the regional dominion of CivicPlus, go largely unrecognized as great entry-level and beyond workplaces.

“We’re trying to prepare students for a new environment,” Girod said. “It’s a very different era in how we give basic skills to continue to be successful as your business evolves.”

Kephart from Steel & Pipe Supply’s HR department has recognized that universities are rife with eager students. Internships can supplement these future professionals with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, as was the case for one of S&P’s brightest young minds who has advanced in the company.

Myers emphasized how career and wage growth are invariably closely tied to four-year college degrees. Copple with Ascension Via Christi says 70 percent of hospital staff have two- or four-year degrees and he doesn’t see that changing.

“The challenge is to create a scenario for people to get experience and do the work,” Copple said in relation to businesses creating more challenging internships. “We’re preparing them better. The game has been upped.”

With a computer science background and rooted in the software industry, Rempe says Kansas-located companies may have challenges but finding eager, driven incoming professionals is not one. That’s not necessarily so elsewhere.

“My Silicon Valley peers wish they had the same loyalty and work ethic,” he said. “We may take it for granted here but in other places they do not.”