California has Silicon Valley. North Carolina has the Research Triangle. Missouri and Kansas have the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.
The Kansas City region is home to a growing concentration of animal health and nutrition companies. Among the major companies in the area are Hill's Pet Nutrition, with headquarters in Topeka, Kan.; Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, with U.S. headquarters in St. Joseph, Mo.; and Bayer Animal Health, with North American headquarters in Shawnee, Kan.
The region was branded as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor five years ago to capitalize on the cluster of animal health companies for the mutual benefit of the region, the companies, and animal health. A 2006 study by Brakke Consulting Inc. found that companies in the corridor generated a third of sales for the global animal health industry.
"Our intent was to recognize that we had critical mass in the Kansas City region around the area of animal health and to build upon that," said Bob Marcusse, chief executive officer of the Kansas City Area Development Council. "We're feeling pretty good about what's been accomplished in the last five years."
Marcusse said 20 animal health companies have relocated to the corridor or expanded operations in the region since 2006. The federal government chose Manhattan, Kan., home of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, as the site for the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. In addition, the University of Kansas now offers a master's of business administration with a focus in animal health.
Kansas State opened the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute in April at a new campus in Olathe, Kan., outside Kansas City. Students pursuing master's and doctoral degrees in biological sciences and technology will collaborate with scientists conducting research on the campus. The campus also will provide professional development for employees of area companies.
Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica recently expanded its facilities in St. Joseph, Mo. The primary reason for expanding locally is the workforce base of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, said George Heidgerken, CEO of the company and chairman of the corridor's advisory board.
Overall, the corridor creates an environment that fosters innovation, he added. Animal health ultimately benefits from having a group of "strong businesses that innovate solutions to new diseases and to new animal health problems," Heidgerken said.
Area animal health companies recently came together with universities and other organizations to form the Center for Animal Health Innovation.
Daniel P. Getman, PhD, president of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, said the center will promote collaboration between industry, academia, and entrepreneurs on research and development projects of mutual interest in the field of animal health.
Dr. Getman also noted the growth of multiple incubator facilities in the region that support start-up companies in the life sciences with backing from various local economic development groups and universities.
"We're in a really exciting time around the corridor in terms of R&D and commercialization activity and companies joining," Dr. Getman said.