Kansas State University has a reputation as a leader in the field of animal health and food safety and security. In 1999, then President Jon Wefald gave testimony in Washington, D.C., about the status of food safety and security at the national level, with an emphasis on threats to the nation's food supply. By 2002, Kansas State had developed one of the world's most prominent programs in the field of animal health and food safety and security. That year, the university expanded its program with the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI), and in 2008 it was announced that the $650 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) would be built in Manhattan. With the creation of the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute as the first building of the K-State Olathe campus, the university continues this tradition of being a major contributor to the field of animal health and food safety and security.
In 2005, Kansas State, the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA), and the City of Olathe started discussing the possibility of a new Kansas State University campus that could target bioscience to expand the educational and economic growth opportunities of the region. In 2006, Kansas State and the University of Kansas decided to jointly support the campaign for the Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT) tax. This one-eighth cent sales tax for the county would fund the construction of a building for:
- the University of Kansas Medical Center: KU Cancer Clinical Research Center in Fairway;
- a building for the KU Edwards Campus: the Business, Engineering, Science and Technology Center or "BEST Building" in Overland Park; and
- a building for a new K-State Olathe campus: the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute.
In 2007, K-State Olathe Innovation Campus Inc. was established as a not-for-profit organization. Throughout that year, Kansas State worked with KBA and the City of Olathe on the finalization of the location of the campus and the development agreement. In 2008, Dan Richardson signed on as CEO of the K-State Olathe campus, and Lisa Freeman was hired as Associate Vice President for Innovation. These administrators began the process of reaching out to various stakeholders, including area schools, industry, higher education institutes in the region, and colleagues at Kansas State University in Manhattan, to identify how the new campus could collaborate with them and how those stakeholders could utilize the Olathe campus to benefit their efforts. The JCERT tax passed in November of 2008.
Design and Construction
The tax took effect in April 2009, and the architecture firm/construction company team of 360 Architects and Weitz Construction broke ground on the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute in November. Between the passage of the JCERT tax and the groundbreaking,
K-State Olathe contracted with DesignSense Inc. to facilitate the building’s development and used an alternative project delivery method known as performance-based design/build.
Before ground was broken for the campus's first building, months of work went into the construction of the Benefit District for the Kansas Bioscience Park. This project – the $6.6 million cost of which was split between K-State Olathe and KBA — prepared the property with roads and utilities as well as a diverse ecosystem with open water, open prairies, woodlands and wetlands. On that endeavor, McAnany Construction took care of grading and other structural aspects, Arbor Masters managed the landscaping, and Schagel and Associates designed the plan to restore streams and create a better habitat in the park.
Opening the Doors
K-State Olathe held its grand opening on April 26, 2011. Even while programs for the campus are continually being developed (five degree programs were launched in 2012), the school is making its resources available to the community. K-State Olathe has worked with Olathe Northwest High School on a pilot program, called the 21st Century Animal Health Program, to develop curriculum for biosciences students and allow them to engage in summer research activities and interact with K-State scientists during the school year and works with the Blue Valley CAPS Program, in addition to all of the Johnson County schools. Spaces in the building are available to industry groups, civic groups, government groups and others for events, seminars, teaching and research, as well as to K-State faculty from Manhattan and the Polytechnic campus in Salina.