KU receives $7.8M federal grant to expand Bioscience and Technology Business Center

photo by: Conner Mitchell

Government officials take part in a groundbreaking ceremony outside of the University of Kansas' Bioscience and Technology Business Center, 2029 Becker Drive, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. The officials are, from left, KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, U.S. Department of Commerce Official Anthony Foti, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran.

Local and state leaders hope a multimillion-dollar federal grant awarded Thursday could help create hundreds of bioscience jobs in Lawrence and help launch a new innovation district on the University of Kansas’ west campus.

Government officials gathered Thursday at KU’s Bioscience and Technology Business Center, 2029 Becker Drive, to break ground on a 66,000-square-foot expansion to the BTBC made possible by the $7.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The new facility is expected to create 225 jobs, retain over 100 jobs, and generate $142 million in private investments, according to a press release from commerce department. About $14 million in funds from local and state partners will match the federal grant, which was issued through the Opportunity Zones program created by 2017 tax cut legislation.

The expansion — the third phase in a 20-year plan that began when the BTBC opened in 2010 — will also launch KU’s Innovation Park project. Details about the project were not released Thursday, but Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s office said the innovation district could ultimately bring 2,500 jobs in the bioscience field to Lawrence.

“This really is a great day for the BTBC, for the university and for our entire region,” KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said at the ceremony Thursday afternoon. “We had to create an opportunity for established companies to come and have a relationship with our university, with our students and with our researchers.”

Also in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony were Kelly, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda, BTBC Executive Chair E. LaVerne Epp, and Anthony Foti, the U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs — along with a number of KU administrators and other area officials.

Kelly said that the expansion is the latest in a series of projects across the state of Kansas that will accomplish a key goal of her administration: creating a more sustainable and better-educated workforce.

“The University of Kansas Bioscience & Technology Business Center expansion will assist my administration’s efforts to create good jobs, keep Kansas graduates in our communities, and foster the local infrastructure of talent, resources, and business support that promotes sustainable economic resiliency in our state,” Kelly said. “I offer my congratulations to BTBC, and I look forward to seeing the full potential of this impressive initiative that will support our state’s growth for decades to come.”

Moran, who serves as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, said the award was significant for KU and the state of Kansas. In a time of great economic upheaval, it’s also worthy of celebration and acknowledgement, he said.

“This is a collaboration, a word that has been used (today), bringing people together to do something that changes the nature of our state,” Moran said. “The goal, in my view, that we should have is to make certain that those we educate and those we raise in our state, that no matter what careers they want … they have those opportunities in the state of Kansas.”

“But I also want us to be the state that provides the scientists and the engineers and the mathematicians, and then combine that with the people who have a dream to start a business. And in pursuing their American Dream, they fulfill the dreams of many others,” he said. “The University of Kansas is a perfect place for this to be highlighted and for it to be encouraged.”

Currently, the BTBC consists of around 85,000 square feet of laboratory and office space and houses more than 50 companies that employ over 310 employees. Officials on Thursday did not disclose when construction would begin on the expansion.

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