Agricultural Technology and Bioscience Industries Key to Area’s Future
Development and expansion of the Kansas State University north campus, along with the development of the University of Kansas west campus leaves an obvious gap (Topeka) in the expansion and growth of the corridor from Kansas City to Manhattan.
A group of business and community leaders, along with the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and GO Topeka, have begun the process of determining how Topeka can participate in continued and future growth of the Animal Health Corridor, as well as emerging opportunities in AgTech and Translational Health in the region. The effort has been dubbed BAAFTech which stands for Bioscience, Animal Health, Agricultural Tech and Finance Tech.
While the precise nature of the opportunities and focus are still to be determined (i.e., Fintech, AgTech, logistics, etc.), it is abundantly clear that the biosciences should and will be an area of focus.
In conjunction with the efforts of the Science and Technology Task Force, an Entrepreneurial Task Force has been formed and has begun to map local resources available for start-up efforts. Momentum 2022 also includes an entrepreneurial-focused workgroup. Combined with GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development Council and the chamber’s Small Business Development Council, Topeka & Shawnee Country are setting the stage for a new era of entrepreneurs and small business owners.
The BAAFTech project is primarily run by a task force. That task force has visited eight different communities in the past six months that are focusing on this industry to identify best practices that can be implemented here. At the same time, a feasibility study has been commissioned and a recommendation is expected in early 2018. Given the emerging nature of these technologies and the industry at large, time is of the essence.
“Topeka sits right in the middle of the country, more importantly in the middle of the Animal Health Corridor but does not play as active a role as it should. There are great examples here like Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Stormont Vail’s Clinical Research efforts, but we could take a more active role in the corridor,” said Duane Cantrell, CEO of Fulcrum Global Capital, who sits on the BAAFTech Task Force. He is the former CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority and added, “I saw first-hand the untapped potential, which should include Topeka.”
Fellow task force member Dan Foltz, president of KBS Contractors, Inc. shares that passion.
“We specialize in building critical construction projects, more specifically in research and development facilities for animal science, pharmaceuticals and food grade manufacturing,” Foltz said. “We are passionate about providing for companies that are responding to critical needs like this.”
More than 60 percent of the animal health research underway in the United States is occurring in the Animal Health Corridor. Topeka & Shawnee County has a responsibility to play a role in that. The jobs in this industry are continuing to grow and pay well over the average annual wage in Shawnee County at nearly $70,000/year. Topeka & Shawnee County are ideally situated to be part of the Silicon Valley of Ag Tech and Bioscience companies.