MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- After years of planning, assessments and funding hurdles, construction on National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan is finally getting underway.
Local, state and federal officials broke ground on the new $1 billion national biodefense facility at Kansas State University Tuesday.
The biosafety Level 4 structure is replacing an aging facility in Plum Island, New York and work in the labs will help develop research and countermeasures to fight foreign animal diseases, zoonotic diseases and emerging diseases with the goal of protecting the U.S. food supply, agriculture industry and public health.
"This is going to be the hub for animal health research globally with this facility. It’s going to bring in tremendous talent. You already have the industry located here in this region and now you’re going to have the research for this industry located in this region with this facility. This is us investing in the health and development of an animal agriculture industry so we can feed a hungry world. And the world continues to grow and get hungrier," Governor Brownback said at the ceremony.
"As national emergency exercises have shown, every American would be affected if the worst were to happen and this nation was plagued by a foreign animal disease outbreak," added U.S. Senator Pat Roberts.
Crews are going to start building NBAF’s central utilities plant, which will provide emergency backup power, steam and chilled water for researchers to do their work. It is being built with appropriations received from Congress in 2011 and $40 million from the state of Kansas. Officials expect the plant to be finished in October of 2015.
Meanwhile, legislators are still working to secure funding for NBAF's 6,000 square foot main laboratory. Officials hope to start construction in May of 2014, ending in 2020. President Barack Obama's latest budget proposal includes $714 million to complete construction of the lab. Governor Sam Brownback has asked Kansas legislators to approve an additional $202 million in bonding authority to complete the project.
"We’ve got to continue to get this federally funded. The state has put up its resources... This is critical in antiterrorism, it’s critical in animal health and critical in the zoonotic disease area and I think the critical nature of this project will help with funding," Governor Brownback said.
Homeland Security officials addressed safety concerns surrounding NBAF and the diseases it will house for research.
"We’ve taken some additional steps based on risk assessment to assure a safe and secure facility will be operating here. We’ve also leveraged operating experience and lessons learned from previous and current labs here in the United States and other countries so the biggest risk of the country is not the facility but it’s the lack of research for these animal diseases," said DHS Director of National Labs, Jamie Johnson.
Kansas State University's president says NBAF will the university to do groundbreaking research and attract faculty, staff and students who want to gain experience at the facility.
"Nationally and internationally, this is going to be the place to go to study animal infectious diseases around the world and that is going to give us an opportunity that few, if any other universities have," President Kirk Schulz.
A January 2012 economic impact report found the NBAF will employ approximately 326 permanent workers and support about 757 construction jobs. It is expected to have a $3.5 billion economic impact on the state in the facility’s first 20 years of use.
"We’re going to see small companies want to locate here, large companies want to have branch offices here. People want to have researchers to make use of the talent and the facilities here and I think we’re going to look back and see all of the things that have grown up around this. As we look 20 years out, we’re going to be amazed at the transformational impact that NBAF is going to have on this region and on this state," President Schulz added.