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Posted on: August 20, 2020

Why Your Biosecurity Business Should Have a Presence in Manhattan, Kansas

In 2008, after an extensive national search, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, would be built in Manhattan, Kansas. This research facility is the only one of its kind in the United States, joining only four others around the world, and will be an international center for critical research in some of the most dangerous zoonotic pathogens — those that can transfer from animals to humans. 

But why Manhattan, Kansas?

While it may seem an unlikely location, those familiar with Manhattan and its region know that it offers unique connections and resources that actually make it the perfect place for both private and public institutions to research these critical biosecurity and biodefense topics.

“The presence of NBAF in Manhattan creates a spotlight on the Manhattan region and highlights the existing assets that are the reason NBAF chose to locate in the community,” said Rebecca Robinson, chief corporate engagement and economic development officer for Kansas State University Innovation Partners. “These assets include a diverse set of capabilities in animal health, infectious disease and agriculture.”

These same assets can be a huge benefit to companies in the animal health, biodefense and biosecurity industries, and their related suppliers, customers and collaborators. 

Here are some reasons why locating in the greater Manhattan region will propel your business forward.


“For animal health and biosecurity companies, proximity matters,” Robinson said. “Proximity to innovation and proximity to talent are critical drivers for a business’s future success and we are here to be partners. Our region can be a great home for those companies who want to access innovation and talent.”

Known as “the breadbasket,” Kansas is the heart of agriculture in the United States. Manhattan is the western anchor of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, an established innovation sector with the highest concentration of animal health companies in the world, reaching from Manhattan to Columbia, Missouri. Fifty-six percent of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales come from companies with locations within the KC Animal Health Corridor.

“Locating within the Animal Health Corridor provides a unique opportunity to be within a critical mass of animal health companies,” Robinson said. “That presence allows companies to take advantage of the customers, suppliers, collaborators and talent pool within the region.”

In addition, the state of Kansas and the City of Manhattan offer incentives for many types of businesses to locate in the region, making it easy to establish a presence. And with daily round trip flights to and from Chicago and Dallas, interstate access and rail service, travel and shipping are convenient and easy. 

“We say we’re ‘something special in between,’” said Jason Smith, Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, “because we offer the perks of living in a small, college town but have many of the amenities of life in a bigger city. One of those is ease of travel. Our central location and jet service on American Airlines make it quick and easy to fly nearly anywhere. If you need to go into Kansas City, it’s a straight shot down I-70. We have the best of both worlds.”

Partnership opportunities

On top of possible partnerships with other companies along the Animal Health Corridor, Manhattan offers unique opportunities to collaborate with top researchers and scholars in biosecurity, animal health and agriculture. 

Kansas State University

The first operational land-grant university founded in 1863 with the goal of teaching agricultural and technical skills along with the classical studies, Kansas State University still has an extensive agricultural focus today. 

Some of K-State’s existing veterinary and agricultural research centers and initiatives include:

Robinson says companies can partner with K-State for research and development through sponsored research, consulting and testing agreements. 

“For closer collaboration, they might even consider establishing a presence adjacent to the institution to collaborate more on a day-to-day or minute-by-minute basis,” she said. “Our approach to collaborating with companies is to bring together multidisciplinary faculty to deliver innovative solutions to those companies’ needs.”

In addition to research and development partnerships, companies can benefit from establishing a presence near the university to create a direct pipeline of educated and qualified student intern talent. Each year, K-State graduates thousands of young professionals, 64% of whom would stay in Manhattan for the right career opportunity, according to a recent survey. From hundreds of disciplines, your business’s next generation of hard-working talent is ready and eager to get started. 

Public-private partnerships

Beyond the academic realm, Manhattan is also home to government agricultural, animal health and biosecurity organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Grain and Animal Health Research and the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Because of these connections and the other resources in the area, many of the state’s ag-oriented organizations are headquartered in Manhattan as well:

The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding resources, knowledge, education and research partnerships in our region.

Availability of office, laboratory and building sites

NBAF’s state-of-the-art facility has already attracted private and public interest in the surrounding area. Just north of the K-State campus, and referred to as The Edge District, this area of Manhattan that includes NBAF is rapidly exploding with new offices, laboratories and employee amenities. There is plenty of space for more buildings and expansion as other businesses and research centers make their homes there.

In addition, existing centers and institutes in the area can be great resources for laboratory facilities.

“Some of the unique assets that exist in Manhattan are the breadth of research facilities for company access or partnership,” Robinson said. “With the addition of NBAF, we’ll have research facilities ranging from biosafety level 2 all the way to biosafety level 4, including biosafety level 3 and biosafety level 3 agriculture at our Biosecurity Research Institute. That breadth of agricultural research facilities does not exist elsewhere in the country.”

The Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, has been conducting research since 2008 and has an established presence in the area. The BRI can work with private industry through collaborative partnerships with K-State to investigate diseases, new therapeutics, vaccines and more. It and other facilities are available for industry use.

An educated and diverse workforce

Kansas State University attracts highly educated faculty, graduate students and spouses from all over the world, providing the greater Manhattan region with a rich employment pool. In fact, Manhattan was recently named the most educated city in Kansas by Insurify. 

K-State is also a resource to train your current employees.

“Through our academic programs, K-State is developing the next generation of talent in animal health and biosecurity,” Robinson said. “We work with companies to train and retrain their employees to make sure that they’re at the forefront of scientific knowledge for their industry sectors.”

Another regional workforce asset that sets Manhattan apart is its neighbor, Fort Riley, home of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

“Fort Riley is a rich source of experienced, disciplined talent,” said Daryn Soldan, director of economic development for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. “About 1,800 soldiers transition out of the U.S. Army from Fort Riley every year. These are tested, trained adults looking for new jobs and opportunities, and we do everything we can to keep them in our region.”

The newly built NBAF will attract a cluster of talented, driven scientists, with experience in both the public and private sectors, working to prevent animal, plant and zoonotic diseases. For this reason, the USDA has established the NBAF Scientist Training Program that prepares top students to participate in the research being done to protect our country. 

“We’re eager to assist NBAF in any way we can as they recruit leading scientists from all over the world and train the workforce that they need to get the facility operational,” Soldan said.  

Top-notch quality of life in the Little Apple

Manhattan was founded by New Yorkers, hence the name, and its residents take pride in their city. Manhattan was voted the No. 2 best place to live in America by Livability in 2018, and for good reason.

“Innovative companies that are interested in locating in Manhattan have employees who expect to live in a vibrant city. That means our quality of life has to be top-notch,” Robinson said. “Manhattan is fortunate, because of K-State and Fort Riley, to have an abundance of quality-of-life assets from entertainment to arts, trails, lakes and restaurants. There’s much more diversity of amenities in Manhattan than there are in other communities of our size.”

Manhattan residents appreciate their access to big city features without losing that small-town feel. Areas like Aggieville, Downtown Manhattan and Downtown Wamego offer high-quality entertainment, dining and nightlife experiences from unique local businesses. Learn more about what it’s like to live in Manhattan.

“We offer residents a diversity of options of places to live and relax. If you want a country estate with land to spread out, garden, or keep horses, we’ve got that. If you prefer living in the historic core of town near campus so you can walk or bike to work, we have that, too,” Smith said. “And unlike some smaller Midwest towns, Manhattan is made up of diverse people from all over the world. We embrace all cultures and quickly help newcomers feel at home.” 

Manhattan is surrounded by several smaller cities — including Wamego, St. George, Junction City, Ogden and Riley — that offer additional commercial sites and housing options.  

“We promote ourselves as the Greater Manhattan Economic Partnership because in many ways we really do function as one big community,” Soldan said. “Many people live in one town and work in another, but on gamedays, we come together as one big region and cheer for the K-State Wildcats. The university is truly at the core of much of life in this region.”

Want to know more?

To get started making connections at K-State, Robinson and her team at K-State Innovation Partners are here to help. She can be reached at

To talk with someone about how your business or organization could benefit from locating in the Manhattan region, please reach out to the team at the Greater Manhattan Economic Partnership or 785-776-8829. 

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