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"Final Five"Eye National Bio Defense

Only one of the sites in five states with long-established connections to public and private bio- and agro-research operations will be chosen- but they all feel like winners.

Patrice D. Bucciarelli (Oct/Nov 07)
(page 2 of 2)
San Antonio has had such a complement for the past seven years in the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, the only privately owned Bio Safety Level 4 facility in the United States. Its presence, says York Duncan, president of the Texas Research and Technology Foundation, which owns the Texas Research Park, gives San Antonio an edge in the NBAF sweeps.

"The Southwest Foundation is already working on many of the things on the NBAF agenda," says Duncan. "And the lab is part of our consortium." What's more, he says, Fort Sam Houston will become a center for military medicine in 2011. Thanks to its reputation as "Military City USA" for the plethora of military bases - both active and inactive - located there, San Antonio is accustomed to doing business with the government.

In fact, it's the Texas Research Park site in San Antonio that Angelos Angelou, founder and president of AngelouEconomics, an Austin-Texas-based economic development consulting firm, thinks will prevail when DHS makes its final cut. Along with its industry-specific infrastructure, San Antonio has other economic and community aspects site selectors appreciate.

"Texas is an agriculture center, has military bases, has proximity to the Mexican border, and was chosen a few years ago by the federal government for a National Security Agency security analysis center," Angelou says. "It has all the right connections with the right industries and with the federal government."

All Winners
Analysts and those who represent site contenders have plenty of time to speculate about where the NBAF will eventually be located; the Department of Homeland Security won't make its final NBAF site selection until 2009. In the meantime, some connected with the final five sites say even losing the right to host the lab still counts as a win.

"Every time we pursue a project like this, we develop relationships with other institutions and with private-sector businesses," says North Carolina State's Barrette Slenning. "Even if we don't get the lab, our relationships will continue to get stronger."

For Mississippi's Ross Tucker, just making the final five has long term benefits. "Whether we're chosen for the lab or not, this has been good for us," Tucker says. "It has opened people's minds about what we can do here - what kind of industries we have the potential to attract - and how we can develop our potential in the long run."
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