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Inside the KC Corridor

Article

Kansas City- Luring three companies and a trade association, the KC Animal Health Corridor says it's poised to make even deeper tracks into the market next year.

KANSAS CITY— Luring three companies and a trade association, the KC Animal Health Corridor says it's poised to make even deeper tracks into the market next year.

Pulling a plum

The latest? Fort Dodge Animal Health announced it is expanding its research and development capabilities by building a new $40 million facility in the Kansas Bioscience Park in Olathe, Kan. It's another major development for a collaborative group now totaling more than 125 companies located from Kansas City to Manhattan, Kan., to Columbia, Mo. and up through St. Joseph, Mo. Fifteen more promising prospects remain in the pipeline, including Kansas State University's bid to land the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) $450 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, currently housed on Plum Island, N.Y. It's down to five sites and a decision is expected from DHS next fall. The winner gets the facility and an estimated 500 jobs.

Joerg Ohle, president and general manager of Bayer Animal Health, explains, "This is not just a collection of animal-health companies. We want to create a brand that has competitive advantages, including development of a work force, a state-of-the-art veterinary educational system and animal-health research."

It's a big vision, and it's working.

The corridor is considered the largest congregation of animal-health companies in the world, laying claim to one-third of the $15.2 billion animal-health market — and the group is looking for more.

This year, "we had more traction than any of us thought possible," Ohle adds. "It's quite remarkable to see the progress." Ohle serves as chairman of the KC Animal Health Corridor advisory board. The corridor helped lure MWI Veterinary Supply, Synbiotics, IdentiGEN and the United States Animal Health Association headquarters. Fort Dodge Animal Health recently announced plans to build its research and development facility in the area.

With other animal-health heavyweights like Hill's, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Kansas State University and University of Missouri veterinary colleges, and programs at the University of Kansas, the collaborations are already beginning.

For example, Bayer unveiled a unique MBA program dubbed the Science and Management Integration Program. The idea is to partner with interested veterinarians with managerial potential to work at the company and simultaneously participate in a University of Kansas MBA program, in Lawrence, Kan., between Kansas City and Topeka. These veterinarians will have gained varied experience within Bayer Animal Health's departments. BI, Fort Dodge and Hill's have all expressed interest in the program, Ohle adds.

"My dream and vision is that we have 15 to 25 students and over time offer a tailor-made education," Ohle says.

Dr. Ralph Richardson, dean of KSU's veterinary college, adds that the corridor will help attract talent and research money that will in turn spur new discoveries, thereby creating new opportunities." It's a circle of life for any institution.

In the end, Richardson says, all of it will be a windfall for the advancement of veterinary medicine.

"Research will attract grants, and it will help give us work force between industry, academia, institutions and practice," Ohle adds. "There will be a fruitful interchange of people. I believe in the future of the animal-health corridor, and we are already showing what we are able to do economically. We are starting to collect information about the innovations coming out of the corridor as well."

"In 2005, I really had a feeling that there was this undiscovered diamond that just needed to be polished and beautified," he adds.

Since its birth, multiple area players fostered the collaboration, including the Kansas City Area Development Council, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce (and others) and Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute. The core strategies are to attract and retain new companies, stimulate research investments and grow the job market.

From the initiative a lobby sprouted, tallying significant wins in 2007. Some of the notable accomplishments include:

  • Missouri state funding for a large-animal veterinary student-loan program. The program will offer partial loan forgiveness for new veterinarians choosing to practice in underserved areas.

  • Additional tax credits, a key economic development tool, through passage of the Missouri Quality Jobs Act.

  • A $13.5 million allocation to the Life Sciences Trust Fund.

  • Kansas lawmakers voted to expand tax credits to animal health start-up companies.

  • A $50,000 grant to plan a Center for Comparative Medicine and Animal Health Research, a collaboration between KSU and MU veterinary programs.
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