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Nebraska Food for Health Center

Corn plants, such as those used by the Nebraska Food for Health Center to conduct experiments on the role of food in human health, grow in the Greenhouse Innovation Center at Innovation Campus. 

Neither of the two Nebraska locations that made it through an initial round of consideration for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture research center were among the three finalists.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday announced the final contenders for the department's future Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The top three finalists are:

* Purdue University, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the State of Indiana.

* The Kansas City Area Development Council and the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.

* The North Carolina Research Triangle, Wake County, Durham County and Research Triangle Park.

Two other applications -- one in St. Louis, another in Madison, Wisconsin -- were named alternates.

Nebraska's two proposals had made it through the first round of cuts, in which 136 entities submitted "expressions of interest," and were among 67 sites under consideration in March.

Locating a research center to tie into the food safety and agriculture nexus at Nebraska Innovation Campus was the plan pushed by the University of Nebraska and several other entities including Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, the City of Lincoln and the state departments of economic development and agriculture.

The other site, a joint proposal between private developers SPW Partners G and S and CBRE MEGA, planned to build the research centers in Southport, a 250-acre development in southwest Omaha along Interstate 80 where some 8,000 people work within walking distance of shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

Perdue's announcement last weekend marks the second time in less than a decade Nebraska was passed over for a multimillion-dollar USDA research facility.

A $60 million center was intended to anchor Innovation Campus in 2010 before Congress eliminated the use of earmarks in appropriations.

Perdue said in a statement last week the potential sites identified as finalists reflected "critical factors required to uphold the important missions of ERS and NIFA."

The USDA considered factors such as quality of life when choosing leading locations to replace the aging buildings in Washington, D.C., where those agencies are currently housed.

"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," Perdue said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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