Kansas Common Sense
Apr 25 2022
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Aviation Leaders in Wichita
Welcoming Bombardier’s new HQ to Wichita!
On Tuesday, I joined local and state officials to welcome Bombardier’s United States headquarters and launch Bombardier Defense in Kansas. This is an exciting new chapter for both Bombardier and the ‘Air Capital of the World,’ and this selection is a testament to the highly-skilled, dedicated and successful workforce we have here in Kansas.
Bombardier has been a part of Wichita since the early-1960s, and this site was originally dedicated to manufacturing the Learjet. Today, Bombardier Defense is instrumental in this new generation of defense capabilities to protect Americans from foes around the world. Bombardier’s long-standing partnership with the Air Force and Army exemplifies the understanding of our military’s urgent operational needs, and as Bombardier Defense collaborates with our NATO partners and ally countries, I anticipate much of that work coming back home to Kansas.
Thank you to Bombardier CEO Eric Martel, Head of U.S. Strategy Tonya Sudduth and Chief Engineer Mr. Michel Ouellette. Thank you to FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims for coming to Wichita for the event, and to MG Michael Schmidt, U.S. Space Force Program Executive Officer at Hanscom Air Force Base, for his service and for accepting my invitation. Kansas stands ready to partner with Bombardier as they tackle new projects and challenges in the years ahead.
FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims in the Air Capital of the World
I also visited Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) WERX Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility with FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims in Wichita. Located in a hangar adjacent to McConnell AFB that once housed Boeing Air Force One modification facilities, the MRO team at NIAR WERX provides production design, initial and Supplemental Type Certification, instrumentation installation, modifications and field support and repair. During our tour we discussed my advanced air mobility (AAM) legislation, a bill that would facilitate collaboration between federal agencies and civil aviation industry leaders when developing policies regarding AAM. As there are many new companies within this emerging industry, this legislation will work to ensure folks are operating on the same page and moving the industry forward so the U.S. can remain competitive.
Special thanks to Dr. John Tomblin and his team for hosting our visit. Thank you also to Salina Airport Director Tim Rogers, Kansas Director of Aviation Bob Brock, Kansas Modification Partner Dave Murfin and WSU Tech President Dr. Sheree Utash for joining us.
Announcing Federal Investments Across Kansas
On Friday, I joined Fort Hays State University (FHSU) to celebrate the $1.2 million grant they received from the National Science Foundation. I was pleased to announce this grant last month which will support the university’s efforts to recruit and prepare STEM teachers to work in rural areas with a high need for educators. Effective and passionate teachers play an important role in inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM, and these fields are critical to American competitiveness on the global stage. This federal grant will increase the number of science teachers equipped to teach in Kansas’ rural school districts, while also contributing to national research on how to better train educators to serve in rural America. I have been a longtime supporter of STEM education, and this federal grant will contribute to making certain more of our next generation of engineers, scientists and technology professionals call rural Kansas home. Thank you to FHSU President Tisa Mason and College of Education Dean Dr. Paul Adams for inviting me to join in this celebration. Most importantly, thank you to FHSU’s dedicated faculty who are cultivating the next generation of STEM educators.
I was in Garden City on Wednesday to be with the Area Chamber of Commerce to share my appreciation for how they continue to further Garden City’s economic and community goals, and discuss some of the issues chamber members and many Americans are currently facing. These topics included steep inflation, rising agriculture input costs, workforce retention issues and immigration policy concerns.
I was also able to announce a federal investment in the Garden City Police Department that will support its officers as they protect the Finney County community. The department will use this investment to acquire mobile backup 911 services and the compatible communication technology, which provides a secondary option of communication for first responders during an emergency situation where the main 911 dispatch is inoperable. Additionally, the mobility of the backup services provides Garden City the capability to assist other departments if their system goes down.
Thank you to Chamber President Myca Bunch, Police Chief Courtney Prewitt, Fire Chief Jon Irsik, City Manager Matt Allen and Rep. Dr. Bill Clifford, and to all those who allowed me to speak.
On Monday, I was in Concordia where I announced a federal investment in the Concordia Police Department that will support its officers as they protect the Cloud County community. These funds assist the department in updating the public safety communications network used by public safety departments and first responders across the county, like police, fire and EMS. Effective and reliable communication is a must to maintain public safety, but updating these systems can be very expensive and difficult for rural areas to access. As the lead Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee which funds the Department of Justice, I will continue to work to support our law enforcement officers. I look forward to working with Chief Fredrickson and law enforcement leaders across the state in the future to bring tools back to Kansas.
Thank you to the Concordia Police Department, Police Chief Fredrickson and Officer Ingle, as well as to Concordia Mayor Ashley Hutchinson, City Manager Amy Lange, Cloud County Community College President Amber Knoettgen, Tom and Suzy Tuggle and Dana Brewer for joining me.
Thursday afternoon I was in Lawrence to announce a new federal investment from the Small Business Administration for the KU Innovation Park. This investment will help equip a Good Manufacturing Practices laboratory, which local pharmaceutical companies can utilize to meet federal regulations during research and production. A number of local drug-development companies will benefit from this facility, and it will serve to enhance the economic growth of the region as companies grow skilled jobs and scale operations.
As the pandemic demonstrated, the ability to quickly develop and test pharmaceuticals is essential to remaining prepared and healthy. This development by the KU Innovation Park will position northeast Kansas to be a go-to location for companies looking to develop commercially viable products that can help our state, nation and world.
Thank you to KU Chancellor Doug Girod and Executive Chair of KU Innovation Park Laverne Epp for allowing me to join you for this exciting announcement, as well as the local officials from KU, Lawrence and Douglas County for being in attendance. Through my role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to work to bring federal resources back home to benefit our state. Read more here from the Lawrence-Journal World.
This week, I visited Lincoln Junior-Senior High School to announce an investment in USD 298. Last year, USD 298 expressed its need for technological upgrades, and I worked to secure the necessary resources for those improvements to be completed. Under the USD 298 Technology Upgrade project, the district will now be able to purchase interactive smartboards. The new smartboards will support a technology-driven educational experience for students. I look forward to seeing how they use this technology to better educate students and prepare them for their future.
After the announcement, I visited Lincoln Elementary where I was able to meet Julia, an incredible fourth-grader. Last year, Lincoln Elementary students were challenged to do "500 acts of kindness" and Julia decided to write me a thank you note, which evolved into writing 140 thank you notes to every U.S. Senator, along with other federal and state public officials. Her dedicated efforts to promote kindness in her community and nation are admirable, and I was glad to have the opportunity to thank Julia in person.
It’s Time to Open the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine Without Delay
This week, I called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to re-open the United States embassy in Kyiv. With Ukraine’s successful defense of its capital and the withdrawal of Russian forces from areas surrounding the city, returning to full operations will enhance cooperation with a democratic partner and symbolically affirm our nation’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity. I was joined in this call by Senator Steve Daines, and while we recognize that the danger to Kyiv has not subsided and we share concerns for the safety of our embassy personnel, the United States historically has maintained embassies in nations at war, including those capitals under direct attack.
More than 15 European allies have reopened their embassies in Ukraine, and our failure to do so signals a lack of confidence in Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. Resuming embassy operations will reinforce the importance of diplomacy and America’s full support for a Ukraine whole and free. Senator Daines and I asked Secretary Blinken for a response detailing plans for staffing our embassy in Kyiv, including the conditions necessary to restore an embassy presence at pre-war levels. Read our full letter to Secretary Blinken here.
Read more from Fox News here.
Welcoming Heat Biologics to Kansas
On Monday morning, I was pleased to take part in welcoming Heat Biologics to Kansas. Over the next seven years, Heat Biologics will build a new 500,000 square foot biomanufacturing facility, and this $650 million investment project will create 500 new, high-paying jobs in the Manhattan area.
The COVID-19 pandemic has uniquely demonstrated how essential the advancement of biologics and biotechnology is to our country. Advancement is not simply a matter of preparedness but also one of strengthening the autonomy of our domestic supply chains and our national security. Access to medical research and biopharmaceutical opportunities is essential to ensuring Kansans stay close to home, and it shows companies of all industries that Kansas is open for business and would welcome them to our state.
Along with the research work being done at K-State and NBAF, the opening of Project Life will allow us to expand Kansas’ biopharmaceutical abilities. I appreciated the opportunity to join Manhattan Mayor Linda Morse, Chamber CEO Jason Smith, KBOR Chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee, K-State President Dr. Rich Linton, Governor Laura Kelly and Lt. Gov. Toland, and Heat Biologics CEO Jeff Wolf in Manhattan, and I look forward to supporting Heat Biologics and Project Life as they make Kansas their new home.
Recap! Astronaut Janet Kavandi’s Visit to the Cosmosphere
Kansas is home to educational institutions and programs that promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. And at a time when our country needs more young people interested in STEM education and entering the STEM workforce, I was happy to host astronaut and current president of Sierra Space Corporation Dr. Janet Kavandi in Hutchinson at the Cosmosphere earlier this month to speak with grade school students about her experiences in space and her present leadership in commercial space exploration. Watch a recap here from the Cosmosphere as we look to inspire the next generation.
Touring North Central Kansas Medical Center Construction
This week, I visited Concordia to view the construction progress of the new North Central Kansas Medical Center. The new medical center will be providing 14 in-patient beds, an emergency department, surgery space and specific clinic services to the Cloud County community and surrounding areas. With construction of the new facility 50 percent complete, the project is on track to open this fall. The partnership between Cloud County Community Hospital and Salina Regional Health Center, as well as a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of which I am an appropriator, is making the expansion of health care services in Cloud County possible and will benefit local Kansans.
Thank you to Joel Phelps, Joe Tallon, Dr. Rob Freelove, Dave Garnas, Ashley Hutchinson, and Phil and Brenda Gilliland for providing me with the update on their work to ensure the community has local access to health care.
Participating in the Hunter’s Glen Groundbreaking in Garden City
On Wednesday, I was pleased to be a part of the groundbreaking at Hunter’s Glen. This project will bring 192 housing units to Garden City and will fill crucial workforce housing needs for the community by primarily housing farm laborers for the surrounding area, providing direct loans or grants to finance affordable, off-farm rental housing to low-wage farm workers. I have long been a supporter of increasing the affordability and availability of housing for those who work our land, and I look forward to seeing this project complete to benefit Kansas’ ag workforce in the coming years.
Thank you to Garden City, USDA Regional Director Karissa Stiers, Finney County Economic Development Corp Lona DuVall and Oikos Development Corporation Owner Michael Snodgrass.
Speaking with Civic Clubs
West Wichita Rotary
On Tuesday, I spoke at the West Wichita Rotary Club. Civic clubs foster the quality of life in Kansas communities, and I am appreciative of how civic club members make it a priority to enhance the ties between friends and neighbors—they preserve Kansas’ special way of life. I was pleased to learn how West Wichita Rotarians are doing their part to support their neighbors, including collecting and distributing groceries to struggling families. As the co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I look for ways to draw attention and secure resources to hunger issues at home and around the globe, but the most meaningful difference is made by neighbors helping neighbors. Thank you to Club President Randy Bowles for his leadership and kind introduction, member Mark Hansen for leading the Pledge of Allegiance and Club Executive Secretary Diane Walker for allowing me to speak with members yesterday.
Dodge City Kiwanis
On Wednesday, I spoke with Kiwanis in Dodge City where members shared some of their concerns with me. We discussed an all-of-the-above approach to energy production, continuing to increase domestic oil and gas production in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ag inputs and profitability, eliminating tariffs on phosphates to lower input costs and supply chain and workforce issues. Congress failed to turn the COVID spending spigot off quickly enough, and the decades-high inflation people across the county and in rural areas such as southwest Kansas are encountering is a result of too much federal spending.
Thank you to Pat Morris, Judge Van Hampton, Nick Hernandez, Ernestor De La Rosa, J.D. Gilbert, Shawn Fletcher, Chris Boys, Brad Ralph and Joann Knight for their time and thoughts. The presence of active civic clubs across our state is what makes Kansas’ sense of community so strong.
Seeking Information Regarding Hiring Process at Haskell
Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence is an important institution for educating young Native Americans from all over the country. Since May of 2021, the school has been led by an acting president, Dr. Tamarah Pfeiffer. This week, I wrote Bureau of Indian Education Director Tony Dearman seeking to learn more on the hiring process and expected timeline for naming Dr. Pfeiffer’s permanent replacement. It is essential for the school to have stable leadership to meet the needs of its current and future students by developing and executing a long-term vision for the university.
Following my correspondence, I also had a phone conversation with Director Dearman, and I appreciate his attention to the matter. I was informed that a hire has been made, and I look forward to the public announcement soon. As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, rarely do I have a conversation with tribal leaders throughout the country in which a connection to Haskell is not raised. I am eager to resume exploring and, if possible, helping to facilitate several initiatives the school has raised with my office under previous leadership. Read the full letter here and learn more here from the Lawrence-Journal World.
Discussing Dairy in SWK
On Wednesday, I met with local officials ahead of the completion of the new Hilmar Cheese Company facility in Dodge City next year. Our conversation focused on investments they are making in housing, childcare and local infrastructure to prepare for the hundreds of new jobs that will be created in the area. The opening of the Hilmar facility will significantly expand Kansas’ footprint in the dairy industry – an industry that has been quickly growing in southwest region of our state recent years. Kansas is one of the fastest-growing dairy states in the U.S.
Thank you to Dodge City Mayor Kent Smoll, City Manager Nick Hernandez, Assistant City Manager Ernestor De La Rosa, Ford County Economic Development Director Joann Knight and Kansas Rep. Brad Ralph for taking the time to update me and discuss how I can be of further help to the region.
Enjoyed walking Main Street on Friday in Beverly. Thanks for all the Kansans who stopped to say hello and speak with me.
Speaking with GSCAA Leaders
On Thursday, while in Lawrence, I stopped by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America headquarters and spoke with CEO J. Rhett Evans and COO Bob Randquist. Each year the GCSAA members visit me in Washington, D.C. for National Golf Day, and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit them on their home turf. The golf industry provides an important source of sport and recreation for Kansans of all ages.
Remembering Jon Wefald
I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Jon Wefald. As president, he shepherded Kansas State University through one of its toughest periods, successfully navigating the university though the uncertain terrain of K-State’s athletic program and enrollment issues. I remember seeing not just K-State’s, but Manhattan’s, progress during his tenure, and the revitalization the community continues to enjoy is due in large part to his 23 years of leadership at the helm.
President Wefald cared deeply about students and the K-State community. He had a keen ability to identify potential in young people and mentor them to help reach it. He did so for both of my daughters as he recruited them into the K-State family.
Robba and I are praying for his wife, Ruth Ann, his sons, Andy and Skipp, and their families and loves ones.
Remembering Orrin Hatch
Robba and I were saddened to hear of former Senator Orrin Hatch's passing this weekend. I am honored to have served with him and to witness the example he set in the Senate. Orrin always treated everyone with respect, dignity and kindness. My prayers are with his wife Elaine and the entire Hatch family. Learn more about his life and legacy here.
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