Cooperative effort keys bid to land bio facility
This past week a group of Kansans gathered in Washington, D.C., to present the state's case to host the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in either Manhattan or Leavenworth.
It may have been the first time there has been such a united effort by Kansans to support a specific project.
The Department of Homeland Security announced plans to replace the aging Plum Island facility off the Connecticut coast of Long Island Sound with a $451 million, 500,000-square-foot facility to research and develop countermeasures to diseases infecting humans and animal alike.
Competition for this facility is intense. There are 18 sites in 11 states under consideration by the office of Homeland Security. Soon, DHS leaders will visit these sites to determine whether they measure up to the strict requirements for such an important facility.
The Kansas Bioscience Authority has been the principal organizer of the Kansas effort. Leaders of the KBA arranged and helped Leavenworth, Manhattan and Kansas State University representatives put together their proposals. Although Leavenworth and Manhattan are competing for the NBAF facility, they are not competing against each other. If either Manhattan or Leavenworth were to be selected, the newly dedicated National Agricultural Bioscience Center at Kansas State would be used by either Leavenworth or Manhattan.
Kansas Bioscience Authority officials believe Kansas has a very good chance of making it onto the short list. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Kansas task force, has pointed out that based on the site criteria outlined by the DHS, Kansas is at the top of the list in qualifying for this facility.
At this stage of the process, partisan politics are supposed to be put aside, as the strengths and weaknesses of each site are of primary concern. Later, after the finalists are announced, politics and money are sure to enter the picture.
But today, the focus is on Kansas making the best possible impression on members of the site selection committee and to show how the state measures up in every aspect of the necessary requirements.
The gathering in Washington this week delivered a strong message in many respects:
- It indicated the state is united in its bid for NBAF.
- Although competing for the massive facility, both Manhattan and Leavenworth are supportive of each other.
- All members of the Kansas congressional delegation are enthusiastic backers of the effort, as do a broad cross section of individuals representing numerous constituencies.
All those working on behalf of the NBAF effort realize that if either Leavenworth or Manhattan should win this prize, the entire state is a winner and will benefit.
Consequently, partisan politics, at least at this stage, have been set aside and regional competition and university competition has cooled.
At the Monday and Tuesday meetings, it was obvious those in attendance were almost giddy to see such a sense of cooperation and support by all those representing various segments of the state.
The attitude was, "look what we can do if and when we all work together." The outline of the Kansas proposal was presented to the administrative assistants of the state's senators and House members as well as to the assembled group of Kansans and Kansas Bioscience Authority board members. Later, a smaller task force presented the Kansas story personally to each senator and House member.
There were two major "wins" in the KBA effort.
A well organized, well-thought-out and well-documented case in favor of Kansas was presented to the state's elected representatives and to a good cross section of Kansas citizens. It hammered home the point Kansas has many assets and can compete with the "big boys" in many competitive areas.
There's no question that those attending the meeting and hearing about the many strengths of Kansas left Washington for their home towns with a greater appreciation for their state.
Secondly, the effort to win the NBAF competition offers the best possible evidence of what can be accomplished if the state can put together the combined efforts, energies, expertise and vision of all groups. If the state can be united and work for the benefit of the state as a whole, if selfish partisan politics can be put on the back burner, and if the cause is good for the state and its citizens, Kansas can be a powerful and effective player.
Regardless of who wins the NBAF race, this particular effort shows what can be done with a united effort. With vision and leadership, there is no reason for Kansans to sell themselves short. Unfortunately, these two qualities are in short supply in many Kansas arenas and efforts need to be made to encourage and develop individuals who show the ability, interest, desire and willingness to take on the challenges and responsibilities of leadership.
The Kansas NBAF effort has been and will be a winner for the state even if Manhattan and/or Leavenworth do not win the big prize.
-- Dolph C. Simons Jr. is chairman of The World Company, editor of the Lawrence Journal-World and a member of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.