Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer took a look at Great Bend Wednesday afternoon during a quick visit that included a brief tour and conversations with governmental and business leaders.
“It’s fun to be here,” Colyer said. He landed here after two stops out west and on his way to Kansas City.
Organized through the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce as a chance to familiarize him with the community, the stop also had a campaign feel to it. A Republican, Colyer is seeking election to his first full term in Cedar Crest this fall.
Great Bend visit
During his stop, Colyer joined the local leaders on a walking tour of downtown. They stopped in several businesses and talked about the unique challenges facing this community, as well as all of western Kansas.
Afterwards, they sat down at the Chamber office to review what they’d seen.
“What can we do to help you move forward?” he asked. Colyer noted he felt a positive energy in Great Bend.
The answer given was for him to promote Great Bend’s message that it wants to grow.
“I want to capitalize on your energy,” he said. “I want to tell your story.”
Key to this vibe is the recent federal approval of two opportunity zones that cover most of northeast Great Bend, Chamber Director Jan Peters said. These include the business district.
Briefly, an opportunity zone is an economically challenged area defined by the U.S. Department of Treasury using census numbers, and there are 74 such zones in Kansas. Investors pay no federal capital gains tax for 10 years on renovations and new construction within the region.
“This is a big thing for us,” Peters said. “This is a great program.”
The city submitted five areas for consideration and received word 30 days ago of the two approvals.
“I am excited about how you are approaching this,” Colyer said. “You guys are really stepping up to the plate.”
There was also talk of the newly formed state Transportation Task Force, which includes Great Bend businessman Kip Spray and 109th District state Rep. Troy Waymaster, who covers much of northern Barton County. The hope is it will keep funding for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Other topics included: Education, from elementary through college and certificate programs; improving the Department of Commerce to bolster economic development; reducing out-migration of youth; and fostering public/private partnerships.
“For me, I’m just doing my job,” Colyer said about the election. “Let them say what they want to say.”
He said he leads in the polls and in fundraising, and is “out to win.”
“There are challenges,” he said. “There will be tough choices.”
In the Aug. 7 GOP primary, Colyer squares off against strong co-front-runner Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former state senator Jim Barnett and Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer. The winner would challenge the Democratic primary victor from a field including Arden Andersen, Jack Bergeson, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, state Sen. Laura Kelly, Robert Klingenberg, former Kansas Ag Secretary Joshua Svaty and Michael Tabman.
The general election is Nov. 6.
Colyer, an Overland Park plastic surgeon, was elected as lieutenant governor on Nov. 2, 2010, with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. He became governor in 2018 when Brownback was appointed the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom by President Donald Trump.
Colyer tapped Salina commercial real estate broker Tracey Mann as his lieutenant governor. Mann ran for Kansas’s 1st Congressional District in 2010, losing to Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary.
Colyer was born in Overland Park and raised in Hays. He graduated from Thomas More Prep in Hays and moved to Washington, D.C., in 1978 to attend Georgetown University. He went on to medical school at the University of Kansas and graduated in 1986 and became a surgical resident.
Colyer volunteered as a specialist of pediatric plastic surgery with the International Medical Corps. Now, he has a plastic surgery practice in Overland Park.
Prior to being Brownback’s running mate, Colyer served as a Kansas state senator from 2009 to 2011.