Homeland Security Selects Kansas for National Bio and Agro Defense Lab

Plumb Island facility will be relocated to Manhattan.

Published on: Dec 4, 2008

Kansas State University in Manhattan is the site that the Department of Homeland Security recommends for the building of a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to replace the aging national laboratory at Plum Island, N.Y.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was one of the lawmakers who obtained a copy of the final draft of the environmental impact statement prepared by DHS. The official announcement of that statement is expected later this week, probably Friday. The DHS declined to comment on the recommendation.

"Manhattan, Kansas State University and the State of Kansas have proven that we are the nation's leaders in plant and animal research and industry, and I am proud of the role Kansas will continue to play in agriculture security and innovation," Roberts said. "This NBAF will protect and build the state's agriculture economy for decades to come and further expand our national leadership in the biosciences."

Roberts plans a joint press conference with Kansas State University on the announcement on Thursday.

However his office stressed that there are several steps that still must be taken before the lab decision becomes final. A 30-day public comment period begins with the formal announcement. During that time period, other states who were finalists for the lab - Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas - could mount challenges to the decision.

There is also the possibility of environmental or other activists opposing the building of the lab in Kansas. Some farm groups, including the Kansas Cattlemen's Association, have expressed concerns about conducting research on the deadliest animal pathogens, including foot and mouth disease, in the heart of cattle country.

"So far, there has not been a major, organized attack on the plan," said a Roberts spokesman. "But it is not out of the question."

Proponents of the lab point out that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has conducted research on deadly human pathogens for decades, while being located in the heart of a highly populated metropolitan area.

State officials have campaigned for the laboratory and the Manhattan location has been endorsed by the states surrounding Kansas.

The economic impact of the NBAF is estimated at about $3.6 billion. Construction costs alone would be $341 million. The lab is expected to generate about 1,500 construction jobs and a permanent payroll of $25 million to $30 million for more than 300 employees once the project is completed by 2015.

The corridor between Columbia, Mo. and Manhattan is also home to a dense concentration of animal health and pharmaceutical companies, making the site ideally located to work with scientists trying to develop treatments and vaccines for the diseases that would be studied at the lab.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Congressman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., joined Roberts in celebrating the selection of Manhattan as the preferred site of the lab. Roberts has been working since 2005 to win the facility for Manhattan.

In 2004, the Kansas State Legislature formed the Kansas Bioscience Authority, an agency dedicated to working to increase the presence of the bioscience industry in Kansas.

Speaking before a joint session of the Kansas House and Senate in 2007 to urge the state to pass economic incentives to support its bid for the project, Roberts called the facility one of the greatest, if not the greatest, economic development initiatives in the history of the state.