RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The Triangle strikes out again in the race to land a major economic development project. Kansas City, not RTP, will be the new home for two US Department of Agriculture departments that are being moved from Washington, D.C.

The USDA made the announcement this morning.

More than 500 jobs will be included in the move of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). according to the USDA.

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“Following a rigorous site selection process, the Kansas City Region provides a win win – maximizing our mission function by putting taxpayer savings into programmatic outputs and providing affordability, easy commutes, and extraordinary living for our employees,” said USDA Secretary  Sonny Perdue.

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“The Kansas City Region has proven itself to be hub for all things agriculture and is a booming city in America’s heartland. There is already a significant presence of USDA and federal government employees in the region, including the Kansas City ‘Ag Bank’ Federal Reserve. This agriculture talent pool, in addition to multiple land-grant and research universities within driving distance, provides access to a stable labor force for the future. The Kansas City Region will allow ERS and NIFA to increase efficiencies and effectiveness and bring important resources and manpower closer to all of our customers.”

The Triangle was an active bidder for the project, one executive describing it as “transformative.”

Reacting to the news, Beth Ann Gargan, Deputy Secretary for Communications & External Affairs for the North Carolina Department of Commerce, said in a statement:

“Although RTP was not chosen for this project, the region continues to experience much growth and economic development success.  In the past two and a half years, Governor [Roy] Cooper has announced the creation of more than 7,000 jobs in Wake and Durham counties, by companies like Credit Suisse, Pendo, Advance Auto Parts, Corning, Infosys, and numerous others.  We will continue to showcase RTP as well as the rest of the state as we work with companies to bring new jobs to North Carolina. ”

During a visit to the Triangle last week, Perdue praised the region as a possible site.

“You’ve got a great quality of life, you’ve got Research Triangle Park, you’ve got universities and academics, and it is just a great place to live,” Perdue told WRAL News. “We’re looking for data centers, and you have high tech situations here.”

In the past year, the Triangle has now lost out on four major economic development projects. The others:

  • A new US Army headquarters
  • Amazon’s HQ2
  • A new Apple campus

Indiana was the other of the three finalists for the USDA project.

Triangle among 3 finalists for relocations of 2 USDA operations, 700 jobs

According to the USDA, “a Cost Benefit Analysis and conservative estimates show a savings of nearly $300 million nominally over a 15-year lease term on employment costs and rent or about $20 million per year, which will allow more funding for research of critical needs like rural prosperity and agricultural competitiveness, and for programs and employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets. On top of that, state and local governments offered generous relocation incentives packages totaling more than $26 million.”

Factors considered in the selection as cited by the USDA 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.
  • Logistics / IT Infrastructure: Subcategory examples include Lodging Availability, Proximity to Customers, and Airport Accessibility.