City officials announce relocation of federal lab

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By Jason Miller Kansas State Collegian

City Hall was unusually busy as it played host to three congressional leaders and several other local officials Monday morning for a press conference. The aim of the meeting was to formally announce the relocation of the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Laboratory.

After three years and a coalition of support from the local, state, industrial and federal levels, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., announced at the press conference the relocation of ABADRL to Manhattan. ABADRL is a federal research lab currently located in Laramie, Wyo., that was designated for relocation to further its research.

“Kansas is quickly becoming the epicenter of animal health research for the United States and the world,” Brownback said.

He applauded the city of Manhattan, K-State and its community for cooperating to bring in ABADRL. Brownback said nearly one-third of the $19 billion global sales for animal health industry originates within the Kansas Bio-Sciences corridor making it a clear leader in the field.

“This has been a collaborative effort for some period of time,” Brownback said. “I think this is a special day, and I think this is a special issue for us to land here.”

Brownback said the relocation of ABADRL, coupled with the construction of the National Bio-Agriculture Facility, provides an anchor for the industry to expand in the region.

In October, Sen. Brownback announced that the Agriculture Appropriations Conference Committee approved $1.5 million for the relocation of ABADRL to Manhattan.

“Sen. Brownback said it all very well,” said Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, of the 2nd District. “I’m proud of his good work in securing this.”

She also said Manhattan is becoming “the” place to be for animal health research, and the addition of ABADRL is further proof of this.

President Kirk Schulz spoke on behalf of K-State and began by acknowledging the hard work of the state’s elected officials. Schulz said Kansas has been blessed with a strong and dedicated congressional delegation in both the Senate and House of Representatives. He said it was obvious because three of the six members of the congress were on hand to celebrate the announcement.

“We have these kinds of successes because people are willing to put personal agendas aside and work toward the betterment of the state of Kansas,” Schulz said.

He also said it was “great” to speak during an announcement of this magnitude, and quipped that he looked forward to another big announcement Saturday when the Wildcats beat University of Kansas.

The applause following Schulz’s remark highlighted the tone of the crowd in attendance. There were several of smiles of excitement as each speaker took to the podium.

Tom Thornton, president of Kansas Bioscience Authority, spoke about the grander scale of having ABADRL relocate to Manhattan.

“It’s hard not to be excited about this,” Thornton said. “This is another large federal project in Kansas. This research may be about small things, but it’s a big deal and this is a state that gets this kind of research.”

Because Kansas offers access to talent and facilities, Thornton said the ABADRL will have much to gain in terms of increasing productivity.

“As Kansas takes a look at growing it’s bio-sciences, this sort of local, state, federal and industrial partnership is an absolute key asset in almost everything we do,” Thornton said.

He added that NBAF and ABADRL are just “the tip of a very big iceberg,” and said he looks forward to working with all the agencies involved.

Speaking on behalf of the city, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Snead stood in for Mayor Bob Strawn and extended a hand of welcome to ABADRL and any members that decide to relocate to Manhattan. Snead said the city is blessed to have experienced such positive growth over the last year, and will have much to offer to people who wish to relocate.

“Manhattan, Kan., is a great place to live, work and play,” Snead said, welcoming any who plan to relocate to Manhattan. “I’ve been here since 1976 and there are so many good things happening to this community, and what you bring to it will just add to that.”

Wrapping up the remarks was Will Blackburn, United States Department of Agriculture, area director of the Northern Plains. He said many parties worked together and outlined a vision of what ABADRL would be in Manhattan. ABADRL realized about four years ago their facility in Laramie would not sustain their research in the future, Blackburn said as he noted the cooperative stance Manhattan took to bring the lab to the city.

Blackburn said he appreciated the strong working relationships the U.S. Department of Agriculture has with K-State and said he looks forward to strengthening that relationship. While speaking, Blackburn took the time to introduce all of the staff from the ABADRL lab who were in attendance at the press conference.

“You can’t help but get excited about the potential that we have coming in here and joining this and hopefully being a part of this animal health potential that is developing here in Manhattan,” Blackburn said. “The reason we are here is because of the animal containment facility, the Bio-Security Research Institute up at the university and the potential that offers to our folks to be a part of the animal health opportunities.”

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