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MANHATTAN, Kan. — A new multimillion-dollar biomanufacturing plant is pending for Northeast Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday alongside a panel of federal, state and Manhattan-area officials.

Scorpion Biological Services Inc., a subsidiary of Heat Biologics Inc., will be building a biodefense-focused plant in Pottawatomie County near Manhattan in the Green Valley Industrial Park off of U.S. Highway 24. Kelly said Kansas State University will have a development partnership with Scorpion to support construction, KSNT reports.

“Being in the center of the country, with quick access to either coast, there is no better state for Scorpion to locate in order to address potential threats to public health,” Kelly said.

Scorpion develops “biodefense assets” and therapies to “modulate the immune system,” according to Kelly. The company’s new 500,000 square-foot plant with $650 million invested will focus on large molecule and biologics manufacturing, with a focus on biodefense.

Parent company Heat Biologics’ CEO Jeff Wolf said that the need for the Scorpion facility’s projects has been partially fueled by current events.

“The COVID pandemic and recent geopolitical events have compounded the urgent need for rapid response to potential biological threats, natural or man-made,” Wolf said.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone for our company, for Scorpion, for Manhattan and for the nation, enhancing our domestic production of vital biologics to protect Americans from deadly disease. We appreciate the tremendous bipartisan support for this initiative, and we are extremely grateful to the State of Kansas and their officials for their hard work in bringing this to fruition.”

Neither the governor nor officials said anything to indicate if the Scorpion plant is the culmination of a secret, billion-dollar mega-project that was in the works in the Kansas Legislature, but there are some similarities and differences.

The secret project was intended to bring a major business to Kansas, but that business was valued at $4 billion, according to the economic development bill that lawmakers passed. The secret project is also expected to bring numerous jobs to the state like the Scorpion biodefense facility. Initial forecasts for the Scorpion plant indicate it will employ more than 500 people, each with an average salary of $75,000 a year, according to Kelly.

Manhattan Mayor Linda Morse also said like the secret project, the Scorpion plant took a lot of effort to secure.

“Many, many hours have been put into bringing this project home,” Morse said. “It’s a great day for the future of our region. And I’m thrilled to see so many new, high-paying jobs will be coming here.”

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. (Courtesy Photo/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The Scorpion facility also won’t be the only biodefense firm in town, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan for a few years now. The $1.25 billion project being constructed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is intended to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. While building the facility has steadily progressed, DHS reported delays in 2021.

A Pottawatomie County official welcomed the Scorpion facility as a neighbor for NBAF, with the two within a 10-minute drive of each other.

“We’ve been looking for the right anchor tenant for this property on Highway 24 for some time, and the Scorpion facility couldn’t be a better fit,” Pottawatomie County Economic Development Executive Director Jack Allston said. “The site is near highway and interstate access, plenty of high-quality housing, K-State, NBAF, and both downtown Manhattan and Wamego. It’s an economic developer’s dream.”

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