- Associated Press - Friday, September 2, 2016

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The story of Manhattan’s growing economy is rarely told these days without focusing on the $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

But Manhattan is a thriving community, and it would be a mistake to tie all of that success to NBAF, its leaders said. Although the Little Apple is expected to benefit significantly, NBAF is just part of the city’s economic picture.

The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/2buGhSM ) reports that significant downtown redevelopment began in about 2002, and that has created a retail boom on the east side of the city, said Kent Glasscock, president of the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization. Glasscock served 16 years in public office, including as Manhattan mayor and in the Kansas House of Representatives from 1991 to 2003.

“In these last 15 years, the city cleared 19 square city blocks of downtown,” he said, adding that in the 1980s, Manhattan cleared nine city blocks to put in the Manhattan Town Center mall.

“So we have now cleared 27 city blocks and developed them in public-private partnerships that have fundamentally changed how Manhattan looks and how it feels,” Glasscock said. “The last 15 years, the focus has been not only on further cementing historic downtown area as the retailing core of Manhattan, but it’s also very successfully (implemented) the plan for a downtown that is adult-oriented, and oriented to be exciting day and night, weekday and weekend.”

Also during that time, city and K-State leaders made resolute efforts to collaborate to grow the community, Glasscock said, creating a “symbiotic relationship.”

“The community has come to understand that helping to advance the university creates very high-paying jobs and also creates greater prosperity in the community,” Glasscock said. “Kansas State University has recognized that an aggressive, progressive community in Manhattan has the ability to create a culture and climate consistent with attracting high talent from all over the country and the world.”

That works both ways. The university works to advance the economic health of Manhattan, as well as the character and substance of the community, he said.

“I would challenge you to find a more collaborative, mutually supportive partnership between the university and its host community in America,” Glasscock said.

An increasing focus on research at Kansas State University, for instance, brings in dollars that filter into the local community through salaries and purchases.

The univeristy launched its 2025 Visionary Plan in February 2010, with the goal of being a top 50 public research university. The initiative has brought in more grant dollars used to fund research, buy equipment and pay salaries, said Peter Dorhut, vice president for research at Kansas State University.

“In 2009, we were doing about $150 million worth of research at the university; in five years, we were at $185 million, a roughly 20 percent growth,” he said.

The school received about $1 million in licensing revenue, brought in from patents for Kansas companies, in 2011, and that increased by almost $1.5 million by 2014, he said. In 2014, more than $2 million was generated from non-Kansas companies. Roughly 90 faculty do some level of cancer-related research, he said, a fact that surprises many people.

“We’re kind of a quiet Midwestern group of folks here, without a treatment facility like KU has, where we’re actually treating human patients, much of what we do in cancer treatment is actually focused on animal models,” he said. “We have a lot of companion animals that people bring into the veterinary hospital or treatment. They are benefiting from the state-of-the art treatments that we’re developing here at K-State.”

Many of those treatments will have an impact on human cancer treatments too, he added.

The Biosecurity Research Institute is another major player on campus. Its biosecurity level 3 lab, which is just below the top-level lab that will be in NBAF, allows faculty and students to do collaborative research with the New York lab that NBAF will eventually replace, the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center, said Stephen Higgs, Ph.D., BRI research director.

One student is at Plum Island now, working on African Swine Fever virus, he said.

BRI’s mission is to protect American agriculture, he said, and that does overlap with NBAF’s work.

Although it’s unlikely students will be able to work in NBAF, Dorhut said the kinds of training that can be done at BRI and other labs on campus as part of the NBAF initiative will “tremendously enrich the environment for our undergraduates and graduates.”

“I think from the science, the research, the education, that enrichment is going to be just unimaginable, really, with this new facility,” he said, adding he thinks the impact will extend beyond Manhattan to the surrounding area.

Dorhut said some challenges in expanding research include the lack of state and federal funding for research. In the last five years, non-profit organizations, though, invested 30 percent more in research at universities.

“That means we have to shift our focus outside the traditional federal funding agencies and pay a lot more attention to industry partnerships,” Dorhut said. “We, K-State, need to position ourselves to be able to participate and contribute to applied research and developmental research that industry is needing to invest in. Being prepared to and partnering with NBAF and partnering with other companies, that’s really critical for us to be successful in reaching our goals.”

In 2007, Glasscock said, Manhattan and K-State developed a formal relationship called KBED, or Knowledge Based Economic Development. The partnership is staffed by multiple interested parties, including the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, Kansas State University Foundation and the North Central Kansas Community Network.

“I think at the heart of it, although it hasn’t been exactly stated this way, the university and the community over the last 10, 12 or 14 years, is the playing out of a decision to truly make a run at being a 21st century global land-grant university, an incredibly robust goal,” Glasscock said.

The particular focus is on global food, agriculture and animal health, he said. It is a goal that fits right into the Animal Health Corridor extending from Columbia, Missouri, to Manhattan, which is promoted by the Kansas City area as containing 56 percent of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales. More than 300 animal health companies are located along that stretch, the KC Animal Health Corridor organization said - the largest concentration in the world.

Glasscock can easily name initiatives at Kansas State University aside from NBAF that fit, too. The USDA Center for Grain and Animal Health Research Lab and the Center for Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, are examples, he said.

“Kansas State University’s research has been on an upward trajectory over the course of the last 10 years certainly,” he said. “The advent of NBAF and the other federal labs has and will continue to bring more highly educated folks into the community and will provide an increasing platform for Manhattan to pull money in not only from around the country but from around the world.”

As someone who has been involved in Manhattan for decades, Glasscock attributes the city’s leadership with being forward-thinking to move the Little Apple toward success.

“We have had community leadership willing to go at risk, political leadership willing to have a vision that is consistent with the global economy, as well as the best interests of Manhattan itself,” Glasscock said. “And we have had university leadership under Jon Wefald and (Kirk) Schultz that has recognized that a university without a great community struggles, as a great community without a great university would struggle.”

And yes, he said, NBAF is part of the mix, although it doesn’t define what is happening in Manhattan.

“I think that the biggest change is that K-State and Manhattan proved to ourselves that we’re good enough to play with anybody on the planet,” he said. “One-and-a-quarter billion dollar investment in a community of 55,000 is stunning. And you don’t get that kind of investment if you are not global grade.”

Growth will bring challenges, Glasscock said. The jobs being drawn in tend to be on a smaller scale but are high-dollar positions. Infrastructure as the city grows may occasionally cause some stress and strain.

“I think in a larger sense, though, my view is that the challenge for Manhattan is to guard against the feeling that Manhattan for all of its transformation now has some sort of birthright to future prosperity, and that’s not true,” he said. “The world will continue to evolve, and Manhattan has to advance its own vision for itself, focus on global opportunity and not become complacent or even arrogant about what kind of community that we are now.”


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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