News that federal officials have recommended a site on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan as the location for a $450 million laboratory to study biological threats is likely to be looked upon as a historic development for the state.
Kenny Wilk, a former state representative from Lansing and one of a handful of state legislators who, years ago, pointed out the importance for the state to attract research dollars, called the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility project an “economic tsunami” for Kansas and a “development which will pay dividends for future generations of Kansans.”
Competition for the research facility was intense, and the winning Kansas effort was the result of visionary thinking and having building blocks in place when the federal government decided to study the possibility of replacing the Plum Island research facility located four miles off the eastern shore of Long Island, N.Y.
Other states competing for the NBAF were Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas. Early on, Kansas officials said they were convinced the Kansas proposal was the best and that the state’s chances of getting the project were excellent if the decision was based solely on the merits of the competing sites. Federal officials had said “politics” would not determine which state won the highly prized laboratory and that it would be decided on the merits of each location.
Manhattan and KSU officials have every reason to be thrilled by Wednesday’s announcement.
The NBAF lab will be built adjacent to the Bioscience Research Institute, a biosafety level 3 laboratory in Pat Roberts Hall that played a significant role in Kansas’ bid. The project is expected to generate approximately 1,500 construction jobs and a permanent payroll of $25 million to $30 million for more than 300 employees. It is estimated the lab will be completed by 2015.
The successful NBAF exercise was a true team effort with many individuals playing major roles. KSU President Jon Wefald and Ron Trewyn, KSU vice president for research were instrumental. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius “did everything she was asked to do,” according to several individuals deeply involved in the state’s effort. Sen. Pat Roberts was a strong, vocal supporter, and Kansas Bioscience Authority officers and board members took an early lead in rallying state support. Bill Duncan of Kansas City Area Life Sciences alerted Kansas and Missouri officials of the possible NBAF relocation, and there were many others.
This development shows Kansas can be and will be a leader in developing and attracting major bioscience research projects. It puts Kansas in the big leagues in this field. The NBAF project is sure to attract many other companies that will want their facilities located near the Manhattan operation.
The winning effort also demonstrates what can be accomplished with the cooperative effort of a wide cross-section of private citizens and public officials working for what is best for the state, not what feeds their own egos or political aspirations.
Congratulations, and thanks to those who played a role in bringing this true economic and bioscience plum to Kansas.