Mississippi Competing for Research Lab

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Gov. Haley Barbour says Mississippi is one of several states competing to become the site for a proposed new federal research laboratory that will study animal diseases and fight bioterrorism.

Barbour says the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Research and Development Facility will research diseases such as avian flu, and scientists there could develop drugs or vaccines to counter the illnesses.

Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas also are competing for the lab.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says on its Web site that the new lab is proposed to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, which was built in the 1950s.

Barbour said states wanting to compete for the project must apply to the Department of Homeland Security by the end of March. Federal officials will narrow the list of possible sites early this fall and choose a site in 2007. Construction will start in 2008 and should be finished by 2012.

The 500,000-square-foot lab will employ about 400 people and have an annual payroll of more than $30 million.

Mississippi has three sites in the Jackson area that could be developed for the lab, the governor said. They are in Madison County near Flora, in Hinds County near Byram and in Rankin County near Brandon.