JOCO Research Triangle paying dividends

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- While Jackson County seeks a half-cent sales tax to fund medical research, Johnson County already has something similar in place. Voters in the Kansas county approved a one-eighth cent sales tax in 2008 that generates $15 million dollars a year for what's called the Research Triangle.

The funds are split evenly between the KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway, The K-State Campus in Olathe, and the KU-Edwards campus in Overland Park.

David Barger of Overland Park is a cancer survivor who participated in a clinical trial at the research center in Fairway.

"If it hadn't been for KU Med, I'd be dead because I was suppose to be dead in January," said Barger.

Barger said an experimental drug he received allowed him to live long enough to receive a stem cell transplant.

"I want to be around to enjoy my grandkids and my wife and it's made that possible so God Bless everybody that voted yes," said Barger, referring to the 2008 sales tax vote.

In Olathe, sales tax funds have helped build a research campus for Kansas State University that focuses on animal health, bio science and food safety. Jackie Spears is the acting CEO of the campus. She told FOX 4 the $5 million dollars a year her campus receives has allowed for new labs and graduate level research at a critical time.

"State funding for higher education has been declining for awhile and so having a local area step-up and indicate that they see higher education as important, graduate education as important and they're willing to help fund the facilities for it, is important," said Spears.

The KU-Edwards Campus in Overland Park has used it's funds to build new classrooms and labs and even provide student scholarships. Vice Chancellor David Cook said the sales tax revenue has allowed the Johnson County campus to roll out "Ten new degree programs, undergraduate and graduate, in the BEST discipline so that's Business, Engineering, Science and Technology."

Advocates of the Research Triangle said the sales tax is expected to generate $1.4 billion dollars in economic impact within it's first 20 years.

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