Monday, Aug. 18, 2008
by Tom Thornton
Nearly two years ago, I moved to Kansas from Illinois, and one of the first projects I had the pleasure of working on was the state's effort to attract a modern, $451 million research lab designed to protect the American food supply and agriculture economy.
Little did I know just what a tremendous experience it would be working on this project with people all across Kansas, particularly the people of Manhattan.
What I've found here is a no-nonsense academic community that isn't afraid to ask tough questions or to tackle national challenges. I've found a community that is collaborative, energetic, and forward thinking. And I've found a community with a strong sense of responsibility matched by a level-headed, can-do attitude.
From the beginning, people in Manhattan and across the state came together to seriously examine the opportunity presented by the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). Together, we looked at the critical NBAF mission and the expertise needed to get the job done, and we found we had something very unique to offer.
Need animal-health research expertise and infrastructure? Kansas State University is nationally renowned for its research in zoonotic diseases, infectious diseases, and livestock medicine. This expertise led to the creation of the state-of-the-art Biosecurity Research Institute and the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center in Manhattan, demonstrating not just our research ability -- but our expertise in conducting modern research safely and securely.
Need access to the best animal-health talent and industry? Manhattan is part of the KC Animal Health Corridor, which is home to more than 120 animal-health companies employing 13,000 animal-health specialists. This corridor dominates one-third of the entire global animal-health market, resulting in a highly concentrated cluster of talent.
Need a place of seamless collaboration across sectors? Support for the NBAF in Manhattan and across Kansas has been deep and wide, as veterinarians; cattlemen and farmers; city, county, state, and federal elected officials; researchers; business leaders; citizens; and the university community have come together to highlight the urgency of the NBAF mission and to say Kansas is the place to get results on day one.
These strengths are unmatched and undeniable, and they underscore why this is a special opportunity for Kansas -- a symbiotic opportunity in which a real need is matched by the best set of resources to meet the need.
As the people of Manhattan have eloquently expressed throughout this process, Kansas is a leader in protecting America's dinner table because it's what the state has always done. With this deep agriculture heritage comes a strong and innate sense of responsibility for keeping food safe, and it is perhaps why people have overwhelmingly supported the idea of devoting talent and resources to addressing what is widely considered to be a significant national vulnerability.
In the end, this sets Kansas apart as the best place in the nation for this important animal-health research. While we appreciate the economic benefit the NBAF offers, this is about much more than jobs. It's an opportunity for Manhattan to continue its legacy of protecting the American food supply and agriculture economy.
Thornton is president and CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.