U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on May 3 the finalists of 136 Expressions of Interest received from parties in 35 states vying to become the new homes of the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
USDA is undertaking the relocations for a variety of reasons. According to the agency, the move will place important USDA resources closer to many stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from the Washington, D.C. area. Additionally, taxpayers will realize significant savings on employment costs and rent, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets. Finally, the plan will improve USDA’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from land-grant universities.
As part of the rigorous site selection process, USDA narrowed the Expressions of Interest list using a set of established criteria defined by USDA, NIFA, and ERS leadership. The criteria included:
- Quality of Life—Subcategory examples include Diversity Index, Residential Housing Costs, Access to Healthcare, and Home and Community Safety Ranking;
- Costs (Capital and Operating)—Subcategory examples include Commercial Real Estate Costs, CPI Index, and Wage Costs;
- Workforce—Subcategory examples include Labor Force Growth Rate, Unemployment Rate, and the Labor Force Population; and
- Logistics/IT Infrastructure—Subcategory examples include Lodging Availability, Proximity to Customers, and Airport Accessibility.
The top Expressions of Interest were reviewed in detail, and USDA selected a short list of locations offering existing buildings with sufficient space to meet ERS and NIFA requirements. In alphabetical order, the top three Expressions of Interest under consideration is as follows.
|IN||Multiple||Purdue University, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, State of Indiana|
|KS and MO||Greater Kansas City Region||The Kansas City Area Development Council, The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor|
|NC||Research Triangle Region||NC Research Triangle, Wake County, Durham County and Research Triangle Park|
While not in the top three, the following Expressions of Interest in alphabetical order remain under consideration as alternative locations should the top three locations not suit USDA’s needs.
|St. Louis, MO||St. Louis Regional Consortium, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, State of Missouri, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Partnership|
|Madison, WI||City of Madison, the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS), University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of University Relations, University Research Park, State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and 910 Mayer, LLC|
“This short list of locations took into consideration critical factors required to uphold the important missions of ERS and NIFA. We also considered factors important to our employees, such as quality of life,” Secretary Perdue said. “Relocation will help ensure USDA is the most effective, most efficient, and most customer-focused agency in the federal government, allowing us to be closer to our stakeholders and move our resources closer to our customers. Our commitment to the public and our employees is to continue to be transparent as we proceed with our analysis.”