The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved K-State officials’ plan to create the Institute for Global Food, Health and Biosecurity, pending $5 million in startup funding from the Kansas legislature.
Provost Chuck Taber told the Regents that the institute would put K-State in a position to become a state hub for agriculture, food and biosecurity industries. The institute would combine existing programs in those industries with new initiatives to create jobs and spur economic development, he said.
“This will be something we believe will serve the well-being and interests, both financial and physical, of Kansas residents,” Taber said.
The interdisciplinary institute will branch out across the university’s colleges of veterinary medicine, agriculture, arts and sciences, and health and human sciences.
But as part of that plan, K-State officials said the center would likely need a new facility on campus, and the plan includes the eventual demolition of Shellenberger Hall as well as the Feed Technology unit attached to the hall. Engineering analyses of those buildings show that the buildings would need significant — and financially impractical — repairs to bring them up to code.
Taber said the plan would be to create a new facility between Call and Weber halls, and relocate the Department of Grain Science and Industry to that building.
College of Agriculture dean Ernie Minton told The Mercury that Shellenberger is the college’s facility in the worst condition, but the college is still in the early stages of figuring out how to replace it, and with what funding. The college is working with the KSU Foundation to conduct a feasibility study on replacing the facility, although Minton said he’d like to see the project get off the ground in the next few years, before the building becomes unusable.
“Shellenberger Hall is failing,” he said. “There’s no other way of saying it. It’s old, we’ve gotten a lot of great use out of it, and we’re in fact still getting a lot of great use out of it, but it’s demonstrated to us, in as many times as we’ve had to get it repaired, that it’s aging out.”
Taber said that while the institute is part of one of K-State 2025’s initiatives to focus on global food, health and biosecurity, it is not the whole initiative and likely won’t be complete by the end of 2025. Officials are currently revamping K-State 2025, a visionary plan for where administrators want the university to be in 2025.
The Regents told Taber that while they approved the plan for the institute, they want to see more data to measure the eventual job impact. Regent Mark Hutton also noted that legislators might be averse to facility-driven projects in preference of projects with more demonstrable economic impact.
With the Regents approval Wednesday, the project now needs funding approval from the Kansas legislature, which will vote on $5 million in start-up funding for the institute at its omnibus session in May. Part of that funding includes $3 million in planned debt service on an estimated $40 million to update infrastructure, which would likely include the funding to build a new hall and demolish Shellenberger.