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THE BIOPLEX AND PINE BLUFF ARSENAL: Preparing for a Technological Revolution.

THE ECONOMIC Development Alliance is preparing for a technological revolution by planning for the development of The Bioplex, a life sciences and technology complex currently on the drawing board for a 1,500-acre site in northern Jefferson County. The proposed complex would be in proximity to the Pine Bluff Arsenal and the Jefferson Laboratories of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"We envision that The Bioplex will have a variety of jobs that are highly skilled and highly technical in nature," says Derrill Pierce, president and chief executive officer of The Alliance. "The use of technology, becoming so prevalent in every aspect of our lives, will only increase in the future. We must prepare for the new foundation upon which American businesses will be built. The Bioplex will help us provide jobs for a workforce that will, of necessity, be technologically advanced."

A nearby neighbor of the planned Bioplex is the new $43 million Arkansas Regional Laboratory (ARL), which opened in February. This 146,00-SF laboratory is co-located with the National Center for Toxicological Research and situated at the campus of Jefferson Laboratories. FDA built the facility as part of an overall restructuring plan that includes transferring about 170 research scientists to the ARL during the next few years as smaller federal labs are closed around the country.

Another plan for The Bioplex area is a proposed $300 million vaccine production facility that would be located at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

The need for the facility came as a result of Operation Desert Storm. Military leaders focused their attention on the potential threat of chemical or biological attack on U.S. uniformed forces as they are deployed around the world. After the Gulf War, a task force was formed to determine necessary action to provide adequate protection for the military. The task force concluded that a new government-owned, contractor operated vaccine production facility should be built for the production of necessary vaccines and related medicinal products.

"The vaccine production facility would be a very important addition to the local economy and would further safeguard the long-term viability of the Arsenal by providing 100 to 200 high paying jobs," Pierce said.

The Clara Barton Center for Domestic Preparedness is another facility that will be located at the Arsenal. It will provide training for American Red Cross volunteers and staff in the area of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction incident emergency response training.

A total of $15.5 million has been appropriated to start construction of the Pine Bluff Arsenal Quality Evaluation Facility, which is estimated to cost $18 million. The facility will enhance troop readiness by carrying out quality-assurance testing of chemical defense equipment.


THE PINE BLUFF CHEMICAL Agent Disposal Facility (PBCDF) began its second year of construction in January 2000. This $512 million incinerator will safely eliminate the chemical weapons stockpile at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. Raytheon Demilitarization Corporation (RDC) of Washington, D.C., systems contractor, is responsible for construction, operation and closure of the facility.

As of July, $36 million has been funneled into the local economy through RDC construction procurements to small and small-disadvantaged businesses. This figure is less than one third of the total amount that will be appropriated throughout the life of the entire project Additional economic muscle has been added with the fact that about 300 construction jobs and 80 professional/technical positions at the facility are occupied by residents of the immediate area, primarily Jefferson and Grant counties.

"The economic impact of this project has been a major plus for the people of this area," says Boyce Ross, "PBCDF Army site project manager. But what's most important is we're well on our way to meeting our goal of safely eliminating the stockpile and making this an even better and certainly safer place to live and work."

"We have an outstanding team in place and this project is progressing safely and on schedule," said Al Burns, Raytheon's Pine Bluff program manager. He added that the safe elimination, of the chemical stock is planned to occur in 2006.
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Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Sep 4, 2000
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