File this one under “The Old Newspaper Curmudgeon.” I publish it only because I think it might be useful to our friends up at K-State to understand what they’re up against.

K-State announced a week ago that it was embarking upon an effort to create 3,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity in the state.

It’s unique in the sense that a public university is willing to be specific about measurable private-sector economic development goals, and to be held to account for reaching them.

That’s worth celebrating, here in our college town, because our economy is directly linked. So nothing I say is intended to undermine that.

But pardon me — and pardon most of us in town who’ve been around awhile — for a touch of skepticism. We’ve earned it.

When the university muckety-mucks stand up and say something of this sort, my mind goes immediately to two previous go-rounds: The NBAF moment, and K-State 2025.

The NBAF moment was the press conference held to announce that the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility was going to be built here. KSU President Jon Wefald, a man never short on enthusiasm, said it would double the size of Manhattan.

Whelp, that’s not true. Manhattan continues to plug along at the same rate of growth as ever, and my guess is that it will remain that way for a long, long time. Unless, of course, university enrollment continues to drop, or if the Army decides to quit using tanks.

NBAF probably will be a substantial economic engine; in fact, the current university job-creation pledge seems partly an offshoot of it. And probably, the Manhattan population will eventually double — in about 35 years, which is how long it takes a number to double, using 2 percent annual growth. But some sort of NBAF boom? Nope.

Second, K-State 2025. That was the initiative of President Kirk Schulz; the idea was that K-State would be a Top 50 public research university by 2025. There were some measuring sticks, although it’s pretty tough to remember what on earth they were, and there were always a bunch of apples-and-oranges comparison problems, and a bunch of explaining about metrics. It’s not like college football, where there’s a poll.

Where do they stand now? How does that compare to last year? Who knows?

Coming up with that plan was a very valuable exercise. It got everybody on campus focused on what was important. And it was aspirational – it set eyes on the horizon, charting a course. That’s all good.

But to the general public, it was – and still is – inscrutable. And so it sounded like gobbledygook, just a bunch of academics using verbs like “foster” and nouns like “interconnectivity.” What does any of it really mean? I mean, you sit down at your desk at, say, Ackert Hall, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and…what? Foster interconnectivity?

So pardon us for skepticism. We’re all for 3,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity.

But what’s that going to mean, say, Monday morning at 8:15?

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