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Archive for Friday, February 23, 2007

Task force: Showing state’s role key in landing biodefense facility

February 23, 2007

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Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, left, addresses members of a task force at the Heartland BioAgro Consortium, along with U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Topeka, center, and U.S. Rep Jerry Moran, R-Hays. The task force met Thursday to discuss Kansas' options and strengths for landing the $450 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, left, addresses members of a task force at the Heartland BioAgro Consortium, along with U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Topeka, center, and U.S. Rep Jerry Moran, R-Hays. The task force met Thursday to discuss Kansas' options and strengths for landing the $450 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

— The argument for bringing a $450 million federal biodefense laboratory to Kansas has shifted from self-interest to national interest, officials said Thursday.

While the positive economic impact of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, is obvious, members of a high-powered task force said Kansas must show federal officials that the state has the wherewithal to play a key role in national security.

"Kansas is uniquely positioned to respond to that challenge," said Tom Thornton, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

Thornton and other officials briefed the first meeting of the Kansas task force that is trying to land the U.S. Department of Homeland Security facility.

Homeland Security has proposed a 500,000-square-foot, high-security lab that will research potential threats to animal, plant and human health. The facility will replace an aging lab in New York.

Eighteen sites in 11 states are in the running, including two sites in Kansas: Manhattan and Leavenworth. Homeland Security is expected to narrow the list to four or five sites later this year.

"This is not about getting to the Final Four. This is about winning NBAF," Thornton said.

Thornton and others argued that Kansas' agricultural base, concentration of animal health industry and research, and growing bioscience efforts make the state a perfect fit for the lab. In addition, officials have offered Homeland Security use of a new bioscience lab at Kansas State University as a transitional facility during construction of NBAF.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Topeka, a vice chairwoman of the task force, agreed that presenting how Kansas could help Homeland Security's mission was the correct message.

"We are in pretty dangerous times, and Kansas really has the opportunity to really help meet the challenge," Boyda said. "Yes, it means about $500 million of economic impact, and that's very important, but I think the most important thing is that it's about helping keep our kids safe."

Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson will lead a contingent of task force members to Washington, D.C., next month to meet with congressional officials and others about the proposed project.

Parkinson said the task force's immediate goal was to get both Kansas sites in Homeland Security's group of finalists.

The Manhattan site is on the campus of K-State, while the Leavenworth site includes 178 acres behind Fort Leavenworth. Officials from both cities said they are working together to support each other's proposals.

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