TOPEKA — The National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) is looking more and more like a reality this week, and that was reflected in the way Kansas State University officials treated the topic while meeting with the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday.
Discussing NBAF’s impact on the university, on Manhattan and the entire Flint Hills region became a lot easier after congressional negotiators revealed Monday that they included $404 million for the facility in a $1.012 trillion spending bill.
The House passed the bill on Wednesday, sending it to the Senate for a likely Friday vote.
K-State president Kirk Schulz thus felt considerably more confidence providing the regents with a consultant’s projections of what NBAF will provide — and what it might need —over the next two decades if construction stays on schedule.
On the credit side, Schulz mentioned the potential for 1,200 new professional jobs and $81 million in fresh payroll by 2035.
Among needs over the next two decades, as cited by the consultant, were 70 acres of land for development (K-State currently has 39 acres), and 400,000 square feet in new research and office space.
“The key thing here is not necessarily what all the numbers are, but that it’s not three new jobs or $1 million in new revenue,” Schulz said. “It’s substantial, if we can make sure that we do a good job of building out the things we need to.”
However, a question immediately emerged from Schulz’s view of the future.
Any quick peek at a map of Manhattan might lead to the conclusion that K-State – hunting for that extra 31 acres – intends to take some of its agricultural research land north of the campus and devote it to NBAF-related development.
KSU vice president for research Ron Trewyn was quick to dismiss that notion.
“There’s no question that NBAF will bring in some companies involved in the global food system,” Trewyn said, “but there hasn’t been any discussion at all about using that ag land north of our research park.
“A consultant gave us some projections earlier this week and some of those numbers have just gotten plugged into the discussion. There’s the obvious assumption that organizations moving here over the next 20 years will need space – but I think we should emphasize that it won’t necessarily even be contiguous to campus.
“Related businesses and research entities could wind up on the highway out toward Wamego, for instance. We certainly understand the importance of our ag property and the need to keep it close to campus, so if anyone is thinking that might be a trade-off for NBAF, no, that’s not correct.”
As for office space, Trewyn suggested that K-State looking to “build up, not out, and increase our density.”
Schulz said the university would have a plan by July that details how the campus community can contribute to capitalizing on NBAF.
Schulz said NBAF isn’t just beneficial for the agriculture or veterinary medicine colleges.
He said everyone can be involved by looking at the multiple components of global food systems: processing and storage; distribution; consumption and protection; and production.
“If we look at global food systems in this way, this becomes a university-wide initiative that goes across all three of our campuses and all of our colleges,” he said.
KSU Institute for Commercialization president Kent Glasscock said the university’s “key ingredient” is its talent pool.
“The global skill sets that our faculty have is not only our calling card, but our mechanism to help companies create wealth around the world and here in Kansas,” he said.
Regents chair Fred Logan mentioned communicating K-State’s potential to the nation.
“It has the potential to move K-State to the status of a really great land-grant institution,” he said.
Despite Schulz telling the Regents that NBAF is expected to start operations in 2020, officials displayed urgency about being prepared.
Communications and marketing vice president Jeff Morris said the university is working on plans such as the Kansas City Area Development Council – which helps with the region’s Animal Health Corridor brand.
“We’re on sort of a fast track timeframe because we think the window for us to move and position ourselves is going to close fairly quickly,” he said.
Along with the NBAF presentation, the regents also heard from the University of Kansas about its National Cancer Institute designation and Wichita State University about its technology park.
The Regents approved the next steps in the K-State athletic department’s continuing renovations of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The approved Phase III of the stadium master plan will focus on the north end of the structure, providing new facilities for football operations, training, sports medicine, and equipment receiving and storage.
It also would provide new academic support space and facilitate game-day support.
This phase’s estimated $50 million cost will be privately funded and administered through the K-State Foundation.
A construction timetable is dependent upon scheduling complexities and fund-raising success.
The video boards and sound systems in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Bramlage Coliseum and Tointon Family Stadium will also be updated after the board’s approval.
The $12 million cost also will be privately funded and administered through the K-State Foundation.
These updates will start late this fiscal year and continue through FY17.