A new initiative in the Kansas City region could benefit the veterinary profession as well as the local animal health industry.
The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor encompasses the region's concentration of animal health companies and nearby veterinary colleges, particularly at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Kansas State University. The initiative aims not only to attract more business and businesses to the region, but also to develop the workforce and to nurture collaboration in endeavors such as research and manufacturing.
"We can begin to approach the needs of the industry and the needs of the veterinary profession in a different way," said Bob Walker, director of communications for Bayer Animal Health.
Bayer Animal Health has its North American headquarters in Shawnee, Kan. Walker said the company contributed $300,000 in early 2006 to kick-start the animal health initiative. Collaborators include other local companies and the veterinary colleges along with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Area Development Council, and Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.
Initiative leaders commissioned a report by Brakke Consulting. The 2006 report found that the Kansas City region is home to more than 120 companies specializing in animal health and nutrition or supplies and services for that sector. These companies represent nearly a third of the $14 billion global animal health industry. The report concluded that no other region in the country is investing specifically in trying to attract animal health companies.
Lynn Parman, the Kansas City Area Development Council's vice president for life sciences and technology, compared the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor in concept to either Silicon Valley in California or the Research Triangle in North Carolina. The animal health initiative aims to foster innovation as well as investment.
"It's to the benefit of the entire industry," Parman said. "We're able to develop more of an infrastructure so the industry as a whole can advance."
The development council is marketing the corridor across the country at events such as veterinary conferences, while the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is talking to local legislators about promoting growth in the animal health industry.
Bill Duncan, president of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, said his organization is trying to prime the pump for collaborative research in animal health.
The organization gives grants of up to $50,000 per year to local researchers, typically for just one year, that require a letter of support from a company. Duncan said the hope is that preliminary research results from the projects will lead to further funding from foundations, government groups, or companies. In human health, the institute has seen a 10-to-1 return on grants in additional funding.
Duncan said the new regional focus on animal health probably has implications outside the industry, too.
"I would imagine it is increasing the awareness of the importance of animal health and the animal health industry as a whole," he said.
Leaders of the animal health initiative added that they already have seen success in attracting companies to Kansas City.
Synbiotics, which makes veterinary diagnostics, is relocating from San Diego. Identigen, an Irish company that makes a genetic tracing system for meat products, located its new North American subsidiary in Lawrence, Kan.
Information about the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor is available at www.kcanimalhealth.com.