Construction will begin in the next two weeks on a $7.25 million facility that local leaders hope will boost the city’s fortunes as a player in the bioscience arena.
Plans have been finalized for the new Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority incubator facility on Kansas University’s West Campus.
“It is a great feeling to be at this point,” said Matt McClorey, chief executive of the Lawrence Regional Technology Center, which will run the day-to-day operations of the incubator. “It has been three to four years in the making.”
The 20,000-square-foot building has been designed to house up to 12 separate laboratory spaces in addition to traditional office space for start-up bioscience companies.
“This facility has the potential to make a significant impact on building the bioscience industry here,” McClorey said. “We have companies that may see Lawrence as a nice community, but one of the questions they always ask is: Where can we set up shop? Now we’ll have a space.”
A groundbreaking ceremony for the facility — which will be dubbed the Bioscience and Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas — will be held at 11 a.m. on Oct. 5, at the West Campus site. Construction on the building is expected to be completed in May.
The center is designed to attract companies that start up using research conducted at KU. But McClorey said the building also will allow Lawrence to become more aggressive in recruiting promising start-up companies from other areas of the country.
The incubator is being funded, in part, by a $3.25 million grant from the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The city, Douglas County, KU and the Kansas University Endowment are providing additional funding for the project during the next 10 years.
“It has been frustrating to see good technologies go on down the road and seek out funding and a location in other communities,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever. “There is a lot of research out there that shows if we can keep a start-up company here, there is an 80 percent chance they will stay here for the long term.”
But Dever said the city still has work to do to secure other sites in the community to serve as business parks for companies that eventually outgrow the incubator. He said there are several existing buildings in town that have been underutilized, but he also said the city is still interested in turning the former Farmland Industries property into a business park.
The city has been negotiating with an Overland Park-based company that has purchased a legal interest in the trust fund that has been set aside to clean up the property. Those discussions are still evolving, Dever said.
“These things take time, but whether it be through a private company or through a private-public partnership, I think there will be a place there, and there will be an opportunity for it to become a thriving business center.”