Archive for Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NBAF could be coming to Kansas

December 17, 2008

Kansans have heard me say over and over again that the most effective way to enhance our communities and our way of life is by having good partners in government. This teamwork is essential to achieving progress on any initiative across the state.

Through the determination of a lot of Kansas "partners" through a number of years, we took a giant leap forward to enhance our communities and preserve progress in Kansas for generations to come with the news that the Department of Homeland Security will recommend a site at Kansas State University in Manhattan to be the home of the nation's premier laboratory to protect our national security and the safety of our food supply. The new lab will be called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, and will replace the current outdated lab at Plum Island, N.Y.

This effort began several years ago when I first identified Kansas as a possible site for the lab following a congressional mandate to either upgrade the existing Plum Island facility or build a new technologically superior facility to protect our agriculture and food security. When we began this tough competition — and we were taking on some pretty big competitors — I said this was perhaps the most significant economic opportunity to come before us in the history of the state.

The lab itself is a $451 million building. Some estimates put the value to the Kansas economy at $3 billion. There would be more than 300 permanent jobs. But the story does not end there. The lab would further establish Kansas as the premier location for biosecurity, agriculture and animal science research and industry, and those benefits are hard to quantify. Plus, we would be contributing to our national security, a role Kansas is used to fulfilling with pride.

We assembled a great team to put our proposal together. The Kansas congressional delegation, state government, the Kansas Legislature, Kansas State University, and the Kansas Bioscience Authority made an aggressive case on the merits of locating such a lab, and the jobs, investment and opportunity that comes with it, in Kansas.

In fact, Kansas put forth a critical cost share proposal that allows the Department of Homeland Security to take over the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) already up and running at Pat Roberts Hall on the K-State campus. This will let DHS accelerate research to protect the American food supply and agriculture economy. Through the use of the BRI the Department can begin this research in 2009 in Kansas — a full six years earlier than any other state competing for the facility.

Kansas and Kansas State University offer internationally recognized animal health research expertise; strong research infrastructure; and an unmatched concentration of animal health companies.

The state also has a unique understanding of the importance of the NBAF research mission because of its deep agriculture heritage and patriotism.

While this recommendation is not yet final because there is a required comment period before a final decision can be issued, we will continue to make our case on the merits. Kansas is the best place to take on this mission. We know what it means to the nation and our state and we intend to win.

— Pat Roberts represents Kansas’ Second Congressional District in the U. S. Senate.

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