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Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
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Kansas is primed to compete for NBAF

Pat Roberts

Kansas has made the final five. It isn't March, but I'll take the good news in July. I am referring to the announcement earlier this month that Manhattan was one of five sites chosen to compete for a significant new federal research facility called the National Agro and Bio-defense Facility (NBAF) that would bring billions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to our economy.

The NBAF will replace the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the nation's top laboratory responsible for research protecting our animal industries and exports against foreign animal disease agents accidentally or deliberately introduced into the United States.

The new NBAF will be the premier biosecurity research laboratory in the nation and the world. It will be a $451 million, 500,000-square-foot building that will create as many as 500 high-paying, scientific federal jobs in Kansas, plus bring additional jobs in research partnerships in the state. Over a 2O-year period, it is estimated that the facility would have a $3.5 billion impact on the Kansas economy.

In 2005, my staff discovered the intentions of the Department of Homeland Security to build a new facility, and we set to work meeting with Kansas State University and others on how to bring the NBAF to Kansas.

I spoke to the state Legislature in February and asked for its cooperation as we entered the fierce competition. The competition for the NBAF one of the most exciting scientific and economic development opportunities to ever come before the State of Kansas. Rarely do we have the opportunity to work together on a project so large that we can honestly say it has the potential to impact the lives of all Kansans, our children and grandchildren, and the state's economy for years to come. And we have a great partnership of federal, state, local and private industry officials working together to make this a reality.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed me honorary chairman of the NBAF Task Force. We continued hosting key decisionmakers within DHS and USDA on tours of the significant bio and agrodefense research expertise already present in Kansas. In May, I accompanied Jay Cohen, DHS undersecretary for science and technology, on a tour of KSU's Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall and another site in Leavenworth that was under consideration at the time. I also sent staff to Plum Island to assess first-hand ongoing research and future needs.

These efforts are on top of the merits Kansans can already boast of, including a long history of supporting research to better this industry. We have the Kansas City area animal health and life sciences corridor, which is second to none with over 125 companies -- 37 with global headquarters -- in the area. This number includes four of the 10 largest global animal health companies in the world. Together, all these companies represent 27 percent of total U.S. sales and 30 percent of global sales in a $14.2 billion animal health market. In addition, Kansas has already shown that it is committed to this level of research through the recent construction of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State and the new Life Sciences Innovation Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The next step in the site selection process will be environmental impact studies projected to be completed in 2008. Upon completion of the studies, DHS will choose the site of the new NBAF. Construction is set to begin 2010.

As you can see, it is no mistake Manhattan is in the final five. The partnership of the Legislature, the governor, Kansas State University, the Kansas Bioscience Authority, industry and the Kansas NBAF Task Force makes us the team bringing its A-game -- and we are in it to win it. I especially want to acknowledge the leadership of Gov. Sebelius and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson. It truly is a team effort. Furthermore, I believe we are showing that when it comes to working on behalf of Kansas, party affiliations do not matter. We work together to do what is best for the state and its people.

Pat Roberts is a U.S. senator from Kansas.

Published in the Manhattan Mercury, July 2007.