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KC Named ‘Tech Hub,’ Opening Door to Massive Federal Grants 'Wins Keep Coming for Kansas City'

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Above image credit: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas speaks at Union Station in Kansas City during a ceremonial Tech Hubs announcement. (Contributed | Office of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran)
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4 minute read

The federal government’s new designation of Kansas City as one of 31 U.S. Tech Hubs is expected to further cement the region’s reputation as a leader in vaccine development and biotechnology, as well as open access to newly launched federal funding opportunities.

“The wins keep coming for Kansas City,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, following a ceremonial announcement of the “Tech Hubs” designation at Union Station. “This means millions in federal investment and thousands of jobs in bio manufacturing, from Columbia to Manhattan.”

The Tech Hubs program aims to strengthen U.S. economic and national security with investments in regions that already boast assets and resources with the potential to become globally competitive in the technologies and industries of the future. The effort also encourages those industries and companies to start, grow, and remain in the United States.

Regions selected as Tech Hubs are eligible to apply for as much as $75 million each for implementation funding, totaling nearly $500 million, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), which is operating the program on behalf of the Biden-Harris administration.

Locally, the Kansas City Inclusive Biologics and Biomanufacturing Tech Hub (KC BioHub), a consortium led by BioNexus KC, will increase domestic production of life-saving vaccines and other preventative technologies by strengthening innovation in animal and human vaccine development with the program’s funding.

With the largest concentration of animal health and nutrition companies in the world, this Tech Hub will leverage the region’s biotechnology assets and existing vaccine manufacturing facilities, research institutions, and startup ecosystem to enable the U.S. to capture a greater market share of human vaccine development.

Kansas City’s next step is expected to be applying for the maximum in Phase 2 funding.

“Tech Hubs designation validates our intentional focus on collaboration and innovation in the KC region and builds upon our strong foundation of excellence in life sciences over the past two decades,” said Dennis Ridenour, president and CEO of BioNexus KC. “With our robust ecosystem, assets, and inclusive approach, the KC region is poised for long-term growth in technology innovation.”

“Not only are we home to successful sports teams with an innate ability to host world-class events, but now we’re nationally recognized for our work in life sciences and biomanufacturing,” he continued.

“This funding will be a catalyst that builds innovation communities that have a generational impact, and I congratulate every one of these communities on their excellent work (especially Kansas City),” said Melissa Roberts Chapman, a longtime Kansas City startup ecosystem builder, volunteer with Kansas City’s Tech Hubs application, and now the director of entrepreneurship and ecosystems for the DC-based Federation of American Scientists.

Roberts Chapman joined Lucas, Ridenour, and a host of ecosystem and government leaders at Union Station to celebrate the designation. Among the dignitaries and stakeholders were Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Maria Meyers, executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center and founder of SourceLink; U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri; and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

Kansas City’s application was a joint effort by Mayor Lucas’ office, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and 60-plus public and private entities — including major regional private employers like BioNexus KC, the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, three community colleges, civic leaders like the Kauffman Foundation and the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, and a number of nonprofit institutions devoted to helping Kansas Citians find careers and educational opportunities in STEM fields, Lucas said.

Map of Tech Hubs across the United States and Puerto Rico.
The freshly selected Tech Hubs — located across 32 states and Puerto Rico — represent a cross-section of urban and rural regions. The program saw more than 370 applicants. (Contributed | U.S. Economic Development Administration)

“These outstanding Tech Hubs designees exemplify place-based economic development strategies at their best: combining federal resources with regional assets, expertise, and coalitions to implement transformational opportunities,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce for the EDA — a federal official who spoke in June in Kansas City at the Kauffman Foundation’s Capital Innovation Summit. “As each region develops its own strategy to catalyze innovation and job creation, the entire nation grows more secure and more competitive.”

Tech Hubs was authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, a key part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which he signed into law in August 2022. The legislation authorizes $10 billion for the program over five years.

The CHIPS act was supported by U.S. Reps. Cleaver, D-Missouri, and Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, as well as U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, and Moran, R-Kansas. 

The remaining Republican Congressional delegations from Missouri — U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, Vicki Hartzler, Bill Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Jason Smith, and Ann Wagner; and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley — and Kansas — U.S. Reps. Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner, and Tracey Mann; and U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall — voted against the legislation. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, joined the Republicans in her opposition to CHIPS.

Monday’s Tech Hubs celebration event at Union Station was organized by Moran’s office to applaud the regional effort and the “transformational” work to come.

“This announcement represents official recognition of something we have known in Kansas and Missouri for a while: the Kansas City region and the Animal Health Corridor have the concentration of expertise and research and development resources necessary to be a global bio and medical technology hub,” said Moran. “This designation will attract public and private resources to grow this key technology area in Kansas and Missouri, further expanding the region’s capacity for innovation in the biotech sector.”

“I supported the CHIPS and Science Act to give organizations in Kansas the opportunity to help strengthen our national and economic security, particularly by increasing research in key technology areas, like biotechnology,” he continued. “I applaud the efforts of BioNexus and the other consortium of members in Kansas and Missouri on a successful Tech Hubs application.”

The story first appeared on Startland News, a member of the KC Media Collective. Tommy Felts is editor-in-chief of Startland News.

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