Leavenworth County is being touted as a potential site for a National Bio-Defense Facility, which economic development experts say would attract millions of dollars in investment and a staff of about 400 scientists.
Lynn McClure, president of the Leavenworth County Development Corp. (formerly Leavenworth Area Development), said the Kansas City Area Development Council and the Heartland Bio-Agri Consortium nominated the site near Fort Leavenworth as the only Kansas City metro site to be entered into the federal siting review process.
Leavenworth County would compete against locations across the country, including another proposed Kansas site near Manhattan.
The National Bio-Defense Facility is a joint effort of the federal departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture and Health and Human Services. It would employ about 400 scientists in a 500,000-square-foot facility.
"It's a major project," said Clay Blair, a member of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, noting he had heard a price tag of $400 million attached to it.
"This project packs a significant economic development opportunity for our county, not to mention the region," McClure said in an e-mail this week to members of the development council. "In addition to being a government-funded and oriented program, its bioscience relationship brings with it a considerable amount of investment regarding items like site/facility, labor and transportation conduits."
The submitted site is at 155th Street and Coffin Road, immediately west of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
McClure said the consortium chose the site because of its proximity to the current federal government location, its remote nature as it relates to the metropolitan area as a whole and its proximity to Kansas City International Airport.
"In addition, such a site would also provide the facility connectivity to the technology 'backbone' available via the fort, which is necessary to properly manage such a facility," McClure said.
The process of selecting a site and building it will be a long one, McClure said. The federal government agencies are expected to pare the list of proposed sites in the next few months, then begin a new round of site evaluations. Selecting a site, McClure said, could take up to 18 months with actual construction and operation of the facility not completed for up to five years.
McClure said among the factors that could work in favor of the plan was Kansas' bioscience initiative.
"That's really something that helps to attract clientele like this," he said.
"One of the missions of the Kansas Bioscience Authority is to promote economic development in the biosciences field in Kansas," Blair said. "That's why we're particularly excited about this."
The Bioscience Authority has been working with a number of interested parties on the Leavenworth County proposal, he said, including Kansas State University, Leavenworth County Development Corp. and the Kansas City Life Sciences Authority.
Leavenworth County Development Corp. has been involved with this project since early January, McClure said. In addition, Leavenworth County Port Authority, the City of Leavenworth, Leavenworth County and Fort Leavenworth have acted in supporting roles for the larger project proposal submitted by the Heartland Bio-Agri Consortium.