Charlie Graft and Susan Payne
Charlie Graft and Susan Payne

The country’s first U.S. Department of Homeland Security biological and agricultural defense facility will be built in the heartland — about 400 miles east of Colorado Springs in Manhattan, Kan., on the campus of Kansas State University.

The 50-acre complex will include up to 520,000 square feet of a secured bio-safety level, several research laboratories, a central utility plant, a guardhouse and a central receiving building.

The move underscores the growing role of higher education in a community’s economic future — much like that of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which has nurtured sectors such as homeland defense, technology innovation and biotech in the Pikes Peak region.

So far, Manhattan has attracted several private companies tied to the bio- and agri- safety fields.

McCarthy Building Cos. and Mortenson Construction Co. were selected as the joint venture construction management team for the project’s pre-construction phase. Site work will begin during the summer of 2010, and facility construction will be completed by 2015.

Both firms were selected based on previous experience in building bio-safety laboratories. NBAF Design Partnership, led by Perkins + Will, is the architect and engineer on the project.

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The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility will serve as the nation’s “premier research center for combating agriculture’s vulnerability to naturally occurring diseases or agro-terrorism,” the organization said in a statement.

Safe schools charge

Charlie Graft, CEO of G.H. Phipps Construction Co. and a member of the Safe2Tell board of directors, has put his company’s muscle behind the organization’s student safety mission.

The third Annual G.H. Phipps Charity Golf Classic raised $11,000 to benefit the organization. Safe2Tell executive director Susan Payne of Colorado Springs was on hand last week to receive the check.

So why is one of the state’s oldest general contracting companies committed to the nonprofit, founded after the Columbine shootings during the spring of 2001?

Graft said it’s because Safe2Tell empowers students to make a difference when they or someone they know feels threatened at school.

“We’ve got architects and contractors involved to make sure the schools we build are safe for all students,” he said, adding that builders have learned the most effective ways to design structures to address concerns such as safe school access and protection from drive-by shootings, and include facilities to treat chemical injuries.

A number of building industry representatives from architecture to civil engineering firms and subcontracting firms have volunteered to help.

Since its founding, several law enforcement agencies, educational institutions and citizens’ groups have joined forces to create the program that encourages students to report bullying, domestic violence, suicide threats, cruelty, explosives or weapons on campus.

Safe2Tell initiated the plans for its 24/7 reporting hotline shortly after Columbine. From September 2004 through September 2009, more than 6,400 calls have been received, resulting in 1,822 tip reports to local, state and federal agencies from 144 Colorado cities and 55 counties, including El Paso County.

Leases of 5,000 sq. ft. or more

Summit Fasteners has leased 5,000 square feet of office/industrial space at 1051 Elkton Drive.

Scott Benson of Benson Property Management represented the landlord, and John Rodgers of Peak Commercial Properties represented the tenant.

Aspire Biotech Inc., a research and development firm founded during 2001 that develops, formulates, tests and applies specialty biomaterials for medical device applications, has leased 7,224 square feet of industrial space at 4755 Forge Road.

The company needed a place that “could handle strategic objectives for future growth,” according to tenant broker John Rodgers, who also represented the landlord, 4755A Forge Road LLC.

Becky Hurley covers real estate for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.