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R&D Breakthroughs Set A High Standard in Jefferson County AR

Discover the power behind Jefferson County's rich heritage as a center for research and pioneering work in bioscience, defense, agriculture and other critical areas.

By Pamela Coyle on November 30, 2015

It is not by happenstance that Jefferson County enjoys a rich heritage as a center for research and pioneering work in bioscience, defense, agriculture and other vital areas. Rather, it is the intentional result of leading-edge work at the area’s top institutions and the innovative minds they are able to attract. Jefferson County’s assets for research and development include not only its deep talent pool, but also its proximity to a federal lab and a research university.

Army Strong

The U.S. Army Pine Bluff Arsenal plays a leading role in advancing R&D through its work producing chemical and biological defense equipment and protective gear and clothing for the military. The installation in 2014 received $10 million in funding as part of the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill to continue its work and boost its capacity. Arsenal leaders are quick to emphasize the installation’s commitment to Jefferson County and the positive difference it makes as part of the region’s R&D mix, with more than 700 highly skilled workers and an annual payroll of $60 million. “These workers represent a diverse background from several central and southeast Arkansas communities,” says Col. Chadwick T. Bauld, commander of Pine Bluff Arsenal. “The installation has an $82 million impact to the local community. As a top employer in Jefferson County, the arsenal is very aware of its corporate citizenship and gives back through United Way, Pine Bluff and White Hall chamber events, and military events, including Veterans and Memorial Day celebrations and White Hall Founder’s Day.” With the $10 million in federal funding, officials at the Pine Bluff Arsenal hope to increase the installation’s positive impact on the community and beyond. “The funding is being used to maintain critical manufacturing capability for our ammunition and chemical defense processes,” says Bauld. This will help ensure the arsenal’s future, boosting the base’s operating fund to keep its development costs low and its products affordable to current and future customers. The funding will also allow the arsenal “to cultivate our workload and establish a ‘preferred source’ with our customers, expand our capabilities, invest in our critical-mission skills like chemical-biological defense operations, incubate future leaders, and focus on leader development and training,” Bauld says.

Research with a Global Impact

Another key contributor making a significant impact in Jefferson County is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) – the only FDA laboratory located outside Washington, D.C. The 500-acre NCTR campus is home to groundbreaking R&D work in nanotechnology and in the study of toxins in foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and more. The center’s work is so critical and innovative that it is known for drawing top talent to the region, with more than 200 PhDs on staff. “The power of the safety assessment work done at NCTR has global reach, and it is leveraged by the global nature of partnerships we have developed across FDA and with research centers in other countries,” says William Slikker Jr., Ph.D., director of NCTR. NCTR engages in partnerships with researchers in Arkansas as well as on the federal level, including longstanding collaborations with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), “both of which share our mission to keep people safe from chemical and environmental hazards,” Slikker says. The center also seeks out public-private partnerships to foster the development of pioneering products. An example includes working with the International Anesthesia Research Society to improve the safe use of anesthetics in children. On the academic front, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) conducts groundbreaking research as well. One linchpin of its efforts involves a $1.5 million grant from the USDA to fund research and extension projects in agriculture, fisheries and food sciences. UAPB is also known for its Regulatory Science Center of Excellence.

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